Monday, December 26, 2011

Fluff and Bone Promo #2

The Top Ten (of the 500 Movies)!

Finally! A full year in the making, I can now publish my top ten favorite films from the 500 movies that I watched between November 1st, 2010, and October 31st, 2011.

Brace yourself...

 #10 - The Red Shoes - dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger - 1948
Directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have appeared numerous times over my list, and not for the last time, either. The Red Shoes is a beautiful film - shot if gorgeous technicolor - that follows the rise of a talented ballet dancer, showcasing the joy and pain that comes from the level of dedication that some people put towards their art. The film is about more than just ballet, it is about what some people will sacrifice to achieve the highest levels of perfection. In the case of Vicky Page (played wonderfully by Moira Shearer), it comes to choosing between love and her art.

The following link is easily one of the best moment in any film, ever:

#9 - The Holy Mountain - dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky - 1973
Certain images from The Holy Mountain have probably stuck with me better than any other film on this list. I'm not entirely sure how to describe it... I suppose I can sum the plot up to being about a Christ-like figure undergoing a meta-physical quest towards enlightenment in a world full of perversions and religious symbolism. And, be warned, this is not a film for the faint of heart, or the easily offended.

The visual aesthetics of this film are extraordinary - the set pieces especially. Incredibly imaginative - in an acid trip sort of way - Jodorowsky tries to connect a lot of very different ideas: from alchemy and mysticism, through cynicism, poetry, surrealism and satire, making this film an extremely ambitious achievement. Whether or not it is successful in those ambitions would probably vary wildly from person to person, as this film certainly isn't for everyone.

The Holy Mountain is fascinating, entertaining, and incredibly grotesque. It also has a scene of toads re-enacting the conquest of Mexico. I have attached the link... view at your own discretion:

#8 - Shallow Grave - dir. Danny Boyle - 1994
Shallow Grave, Danny Boyle's directorial debut, is also his best film. A fast-paced, stylish, tightly written thriller about three roommates who find their fourth roommate dead with a case full of money in his room, the film works as both a black-comedy and an effectively scary thriller, with the dynamics between the three friends ever changing. The three main actors are terrific (Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, and Christopher Eccleston), with Eccleston giving a performance so good that I'm tempted to go back and watch him on Doctor Who again. Having had seen and liked almost every other Boyle film (whilst turning a blind-eye to The Beach), I had high expectations when watching this, and the film managed to completely exceed them.

#7 - Pierrot Le Fou - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - 1965
Godard, one of the leading directors during the French New Wave movement of the late 1950's and 1960's, shows up multiple times on my list, with Pierrot Le Fou ending up as my favorite of his films.

Following a man and his ex-girlfriend as they are pursued by gangsters, the film becomes a road-trip movie as the characters travel south whilst committing crime on a journey of both re-creation and self-destruction (figuratively and literally). At once part gangster film, part musical, part crime-road-movie, Godard ignores typical narrative conventions and instead improvises much as it goes along, making Pierrot Le Fou both messy and a little bit maddening (in the best way possibles).

A scene early in the film shows a conversation with the director Samuel Fuller (The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor), who plays himself. Fuller says, "Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. Death. In one word: Emotions."All of these emotions run high throughout Pierrot Le Fou, and as a result, it ends up being the finest Godard film I've seen yet.

#6 - Stalker - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky - 1979
Stalker may be the best science fiction film ever made. It follows a guide known as the Stalker as he leads a Writer and a Professor through a mysterious land known only as The Zone, an area where the laws of physics no longer apply. The men travel in search of a place called The Room, where their deepest desires are said to come true, and each holds a different reason for why they have come.

The film may be slow but is highly rewarding. It is a science-fiction film that has no explanation of science or futuristic technology, instead developing an atmosphere than can be both as harrowing as it is beautiful, and concluding with one of the best final shots of any film ever made.

#5 - The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger - 1943
The Archers appear more times throughout this list than any other director. The fact is, I have yet to see a film directed by the duo that I did not, in fact, love. So that The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp manages to be my favorite of their films says an awful lot about just how high of esteem I hold for it.

The film spans forty years, detailing the life of General Clive Candy, a military man first seen in his  year of old age - fat, bald, and sporting a walrus mustache. What first appears as a caricature develops into a fascinating persona as the life of Candy is laid out before us, revealing him as both the ideologist and the romantic that he is. The finest part of the consistently excellent Colonel Blimp may be the miraculous performance of Deborah Kerr, playing three different roles that intertwine with Candy over the course of his life.

#4 - Playtime - dir. Jacques Tati - 1967
Playtime is a movie without a story. It is a movie where things are constantly occurring, but nothing actually happens. It also may be the single greatest comedic achievement in cinematic history.

The sheer number of visual gags in Playtime is astounding. The film takes place in a variety of locations over the course of a day, and is only linked together by a couple of characters (including Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot), whose paths cross on occasion. Yet the focus of the film remains on the people and technology around them, turning the most mundane of situations into brilliant comedy. It's a film that takes multiple viewings just to pick up on all of the jokes. The choreography that Tati must have put in to setting up some of the gags is astounding, with many being built up so naturally that you won't even realize something is coming until it actually occurs. That the humor carries additional weight by holding a message on both tourism and the excesses consumerism only improves the quality of this already perfect film.

#3 - Chungking Express - dir. Kar Wai Wong - 1994
Like Playtime, Chungking Express is the type of film you really need to watch multiple times to get the most out of it.

Comprised of two overlapping stories - the first, about a love-sick cop who encounters a mysterious woman (who also happens to be a drug smuggler), carries an almost noir-feeling, and ends where the second story begins, at a snack bar known as Midnight Express. The second story, about a second love-sick cop, centers around a girl (in a miraculous performance by Faye Wong) who falls for him, and genre-shifts the movie into almost a romantic-comedy.

The direction of the film is stylish and full of energy; the camera work is kinetic, showcasing some fantastic imagery of the metro Hong Kong area, and the soundtrack (with its constant repetition of 'California Dreamin') is wonderful. However, the unconventional format of the film makes it so that some details - especially in how the two stories overlap - may not stick the first time. As a result, Chungking Express becomes one of those rare films that gets better every time you watch it.

#2 - Brand Upon the Brain! - dir. Guy Maddin - 2006
Guy Maddin's films are a sort of reinvention of the age of silent cinema. Brand Upon the Brain!, his best film, is like a dream that borders on becoming a nightmare. Almost hypnotic in nature, the film weaves the story follows a fictional Guy Maddin as he returns to the island with the lighthouse-orphanage that he grew up in, only to have his mind flash back to his childhood. What follows is a story that weaves together a tyrannical mother, children detectives, a mad scientist, lesbian lovers, and orphan nectar, held together by the fantastic visual aesthetics that make Maddin's films unlike any other working director.

#1 - Elevator to the Gallows - dir. Louis Malle - 1958
My number one film! Easily one of my favorite films ever, too (though I guess I could say that about all of my top ten)! Elevator to the Gallows, Louis Malle's directorial debut, is simply one of the coolest movies ever made. It has one of my all time favorite scores (composed by Miles Davis, who pretty much improvised the entire thing), and could very well be considered as the first film of the French New Wave, having been released nearly two years before both Godard's Breathless and Truffaut's The 500 Blows.
A superb noir crime-thriller, Elevator to the Gallows follows two separate crimes that intersect: a carefully planned murder by one man who finds himself trapped in an elevator, and the theft of the murderer's car by a young couple. What follows is storytelling at its finest, and I would hate to ruin it with spoilers.


So there you have it... my film list is complete. At least for this year. Even though I am no longer on my 500-in-a-year challenge, I'm still watching an awful lot, so I may make another best list once next November comes around. AndI do plan on making a best of 2011 list around Oscar time.

However, I have further plans for this blog, as I will be launching my original animated web-comic Fluff & Bone hopefully in the near future! So be excited!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

500 Films, The Worst of the Worst

Having had watched 500 movies this past year, I can honestly say that a lot of them were not very good. Usually, I tried to pick films that were supposed to be good, but on some days I had very limited choices and had to watch what my friends were watching. And that almost never turns out good.

And so, while it would be terribly easy to make a bottom ten made entirely out of films that my friends made me watch, I'm not going to do that. Instead, my bottom ten is composed mostly of movies that are either supposed to be good or that are by directors that I usually enjoy. So, for the most part, these are movies that I had hopes for that utterly failed to meet my expectations.

#10 - The Green Hornet - dir. Michel Gondry - 2011
I figured since this was a list of the worst movies, Seth Rogen should probably be on it somewhere. And while this was a movie that my friends had me watch, I at least had held on to a little bit of hope that with a director like Michel Gondry (who did the fantastic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), that perhaps this movie wouldn't be all bad. Instead, I just got two hours of Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen in a mask, which is not a very pleasant experience.
#9 - Dogtooth - dir. Giorgos Lanthimos - 2009
Dogtooth was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010, which is really fucking weird. Because Dogtooth is fucking weird. And not in a cool David Lynch sort of way.

It's a rather uncomfortable film to watch, about three near-adult siblings who have grown-up confined to their parent's home and teachings, and as a result their actions and behavior are completely alien from how normal people act. They've been taught the wrong names for various objects. They believe cats are dangerous monsters. And while this can be amusing at first, it becomes something far more perverse as the movie progresses.
#8 - Big - dir. Penny Marshall - 1988
The list of 1001 Movies to See Before You Die told me that I needed to watch Big. I rather wish it hadn't.

I remember watching Big when I was younger; or rather, I remembered watching parts of it, which is why I felt I needed to re-watch it before I crossed it off my list. The thing is, I seem to remember not liking it back then, and upon re-watching, that feeling hasn't changed. I suppose it might be because I'm not much of a Tom Hanks fan, and seeing him act childish through a full movie doesn't exactly make me warm up to him. And it probably doesn't help that I never had any of the cool toys that he got to have when I was a child. But, in all, I simply didn't find this movie very fun, which it seemed like it was trying so hard to be.
#7 - Tideland - dir. Terry Gilliam - 2005

I'm a big fan of Terry Gilliam, and he has a lot of movies that I like a whole lot, but Tideland isn't among them. In short, Tideland is a terribly uncomfortable film to watch, mostly because a lot of unpleasant things happen to and around a young girl. For instance, she regularly prepares heroin injections for her father, who proceeds to die and then decompose as the movie progresses, though the girl doesn't notice as she is lost in her grotesquely fantastical imagination. And then she has a bizarre relationship with an older, mentally handicapped man. And that doesn't sound like it would make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, does it? None of it is very fun to watch... but the film is very much a Gilliam film - in fact, it is probably Gilliam at his most unfiltered - so for those who like his work, I would assume that there would be some who would quite like Tideland. I, however, felt like taking a shower by the time it was done.
#6 - The Beach - dir. Danny Boyle - 2000
Danny Boyle is a pretty fantastic director. He's the man behind Slumdog Millionaire, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 127 Hours, Sunshine, and 28 Days Later, which is why The Beach came as such a disappointment. 

I won't deny that the cinematography is wonderful. But beyond that, the film is a mess, as it tries to balance too many genres, turning it in to some sort of romantic-action-mystery-thriller that fails to come through on any of the many, many ideas it sets up. Though I will say that Robert Carlyle was quite fun in it. Sadly, he's only in it for a couple of minutes.
#5 - Hellraiser - dir. Clive Barker - 1987
When I asked people for horror movie recommendations for my month-long October horror movie marathon, I'm sure I was told Hellraiser half a dozen times, so I decided to watch it.

Hellraiser is an unpleasant movie. It is often violent, gory, and disgusting, and I have no problem with any of that, so long as it helps to make a movie good. But, truly, that savage imagery is all that Hellraiser is. The rest of the plot is simply unlikable characters making stupid decisions. The film is very dark, but entirely witless. The gory effects are well done, but the movie lacks any real style. 

If you want cool, stylish, brutal horror (with an amazing score to boot), watch this instead...
#4 - Event Horizon - dir. Paul W.S. Anderson - 1997
There were three movies that I saw when I was much younger that I remembered certain images from, but had no idea what they were, and I struggled for years to figure out what they were. The first I have since learned was the movie The Radioland Murders. The second was Event Horizon. And the third I have yet to figure out, but it involves a chainsaw cutting through the roof of a car, and a man sitting behind a fire. It's been bothering me for years.

I have yet to re-watch The Radioland Murders, but I did get to see Event Horizon. And it was upsetting to realize that the movie I had spent so much time thinking about for the last ten years was, frankly, an awful movie. I wasn't exactly surprised... as soon as I figured out what it was, I looked it up online and learned that it was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, which is never a good sign.

So I finally watched it. And here it sits, in my bottom five. The movie is highly nonsensical, with plenty of plot-points left unresolved or poorly explained, the characters are dislikable, and it often feels like a gory-knockoff of Solaris (a far superior film involving hallucinations of family members on a isolated spaceship).

If only it had been directed by the other Paul Anderson. What a difference two letters can make...
#3 - Sucker Punch - dir. Zack Snyder - 2011
I didn't hate this movie when I first saw it. It's not that it was good... no, it was still quite terrible. But it seemed harmless at the time, and I felt no need to let my mind linger on its many, many flaws, because that would be giving director Zack Snyder far too much credit. I've come to accept that he's not a good director, after having seen both 300 and Watchmen (though his 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead actually was fairly good).

So I didn't hate this movie at first. But then I discovered that a handful of my friends absolutely loved it, and they kept telling me how much they loved it, about how it's a wonderful film about female-empowerment, and that I was crazy for not liking it. Well, the thing is, Sucker Punch is not empowering; what it is is shallow, one-dimensional, and filled with some absolutely terrible dialogue. I could write an entire essay on just how not-empowering Sucker Punch truly is, but I would far rather spend my time writing about things that are far less obvious. 

If you want to go watch something violent and empowering, go watch Kill Bill, or Aliens. Because if I even have to hear the name Sucker Punch one more time, I'm afraid I can't be held responsible for what it will make me do.
#2 - Cannibal Holocaust - dir. Ruggero Deodato - 1980
They scalp a monkey! A real one! In the film! That's just wrong. Many other animals were killed for the creation of this movie as well...

I suppose Cannibal Holocaust does achieve its purpose. It's shocking and brutal, and has a fairly interesting social commentary in showing how people can be far more brutal and vile than the cannibals mentioned in the title. The story behind it is rather fascinating as well, as the director was originally accused of having murdered his cast members (he didn't. But he did kill the monkeys). So it is also terribly unethical, and quite a disturbing watch, so I certainly never plan to watch it again.
#1 - Crash - dir. Paul Haggis - 2005
I should have just watched the Cronenberg film instead...

Crash won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2005. Which means it's a good movie, right? I have been working my way through every best picture winner and nominee, so I figured it was time to give it a watch.

There are a lot of movies that aren't very good, and most of these movies seem to know that. Sometimes, that makes these movies enjoyable. There are times when I simply enjoy watching them for mindless entertainment. And then there are the really good movies. Those are the ones that I like the most. But then there are the bad movies that think they are good movies. Movies like Forrest Gump or E.T. or Shrek. And, of course, Crash.

Crash is a movie about racism, and it tries to say a whole lot about it. The movie follows a large ensemble of characters over a couple of days as there lives coincide through a series of unlikely coincidences. And the entire time, everything they do is about race. Every line spoken. Every action and interaction. It's ridiculously implausible. People don't talk like that. The language often seems as if it is  trying to be shocking, but it wears thin extremely quickly. The characters themselves are little more than racial stereotypes.

So if you can't tell, I have a major problem with how the screenplay was written. I hated the dialogue, and I hated just how forced the coincidences are.

I especially hate how a movie like this could win an Oscar for Best Picture. And that helps ensure it as my #1 worst for this year.

My bottom ten is finally done! Which means I can get a start on my top ten! I promise there will be a lot less hating in that part of it. Hopefully, it will be posted by early next week.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

#30-#11 of the Top Fifty Movies

#30 - Rosemary's Baby - dir. Roman Polanski - 1968
#29 - Naked Lunch - dir. David Cronenberg - 1991
#28 - Near Dark - dir. Kathryn Bigelow - 1987
#27 - Shock Corridor - dir. Samuel Fuller - 1963
#26 - Nashville - dir. Robert Altman - 1975
#25 - Sherlock, Jr. - dir. Buster Keaton - 1924
#24 - The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie - dir. Luis Bunuel - 1972
#23 - North by Northwest - dir. Alfred Hitchcock - 1959
#22 - Blue Velvet - dir. David Lynch - 1986
#21 - After Hours - dir. Martin Scorsese - 1985
#20 - A Zed & Two Noughts - dir. Peter Greenaway - 1986
#19 - Z - dir. Costa-Gavras - 1969
#18 - Performance - dir. Nicolas Roeg & Donald Cammell - 1970
#17 - Millenium Actress - dir. Satoshi Kon - 2001
#16 - A Woman is a Woman - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - 1961

And from here on out, I will do a write-up for the top movies, so that you can all know exactly why I love them so much.

#15 - The Lady Vanishes - dir. Alfred Hitchcock - 1938
Technically, it's my second favorite Hitchcock, but Vertigo was not among the 500 I watched this year, so The Lady Vanishes ranks highest on this list. Highly suspenseful, and increasingly complex as the story unfolds, the film manages to be both an effective thriller as well as a romantic-comedy, thanks in due part to wonderful performances by the leading actors, Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. Full of great characters, fantastic dialogue, and brilliant direction, The Lady Vanishes is certainly one of Hitchcock's best.

#14 - Hard-Boiled - dir. John Woo - 1992
I'm not a huge fan of most action movies. Hard-Boiled, however, is quite possibly my favorite, due mostly to the perfectly choreographed action scenes that fill the majority of the movie. From the opening tea-room shootout through the explosive hospital climax, the action in Hard-Boiled puts most other action movies to shame. 

#13 - Dogville - dir. Lars Von Trier - 2003
This is one film that you really just have to see for yourself. It's filmed on a stage, with the basics layout of the town of Dogville marked out on the ground, and with basic furniture of the buildings visible. So, basically, the picture above.

However, the characters don't see any of that. They see a normal-looking town, and they go about their day to day life as if they were in normal buildings living relatively normal lives. That being said, this makes it unique from any other film you are ever bound to see. And it completely works, thanks to Lars Von Trier's writing and direction, as well as the fantastic cast, headed by Nicole Kidman (in what is probably my favorite performance of hers).

Also, this film is dark, brutal, and depressing. And it has one hell of an ending.

#12 - Doctor Zhivago - dir. David Lean - 1965
In retrospect, I'm not sure why I put off watching this for so long, as I've had it readily available for the past few years. Doctor Zhivago is truly one of the most ambitious and epic films ever made - a love story set during the Russian Revolution. So many elements of this film deserve praise: the stunning cinematography, the unforgettable score, the incredible performances of Omar Shariff and Julie Christie (and the rest of the cast, for that matter), and the direction of David Lean. Put together, they create one of the most timeless romantic epics ever made.

#11 - All About Eve - dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz - 1950
Simply put, this has one of the best screenplays ever written. The plot, the dialogue, the performances of Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and George Sanders... all of it makes All About Eve one of my favorites from the 500. 

Though not quite a favorite enough to crack the top ten, which I plan to add soon. But before I post my top ten, I think I also want to post by bottom ten. So expect more updates in the coming days!

Monday, December 5, 2011

#50-#31 of the Top Fifty Films

Alright, so I've decided not to do a write-up for these movies either, because that would take forever. I'll do a write up for the top fifteen or so, but the rest will just be listed, because I don't want to spend a week writing this.

So without further ado, the top fifty begins. Here are #50-#31:

#50 - Topsy-Turvy - dir. Mike Leigh - 1999
#49 - Solaris - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky - 1972
#48 - The Fearless Vampire Killers - dir. Roman Polanski - 1967
#47 - Leon: The Professional - dir. Luc Besson - 1994
#46 - Bad Timing - dir. Nicolas Roeg - 1980
#45 - Hannah and Her Sisters - dir. Woody Allen - 1986
#44 - Possession - dir. Andrzej Zulawski - 1981
#43 - The Tales of Hoffman - dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger - 1951
#42 - Repulsion - dir. Roman Polanski - 1965
#41 - The Rules of the Game - dir. Jean Renoir - 1939
#40 - Sleuth - dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz - 1972
#39 - Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind - dir. Hayao Miyazaki - 1984
#38 - Black Swan - dir. Darren Aronofsky - 2010
#37 - Cries and Whispers - dir. Ingmar Bergman - 1972
#36 - The Leopard - dir. Luchino Visconti - 1963
#35 - Once Upon a Time in the West - dir. Sergio Leone - 1968
#34 - Masculin Feminin - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - 1966
#33 - A Very Long Engagement - dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet - 2004
#32 - Hausu (House) - dir. Nobuhiko Ohbayashi - 1977
#31 - 2046 - dir. Kar Wai Wong - 2004

Sometime in the near future, #30-#11 will be posted! And perhaps my least favorites from the year as well!