The First 15 Days
Day 01 – Favorite Movie (Listed by Genre)
Action/Adventure: Indiana Jones Quadrilogy, Dr. No, From Russia with Love, GoldenEye, Casino Royale, The Dark Knight
Animated: Pure Animation: Fantasia/Fantasia 2000/Lilo & Stitch/The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh Computer Animation: All Pixar films.
Classic: Bringing Up Baby, Modern Times, Nosferatu, Psycho, The Birds
Comedy: Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, What’s Up Doc, Bringing Up Baby, Clue, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Arsenic and Old Lace
Crime/Gangster: The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2), Public Enemies
Cult Classic: Can we count SE7EN and Grindhouse?
Documentary: This Film is Not Yet Rated, The Pixar Story
Drama: Notes on a Scandal, Black Swan, The Manchurian Candidate, Lady Vengeance, Frost/Nixon, Stranger Than Fiction, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Fantasy: Lord of the Rings, Pan’s Labyrinth
Holiday: White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Elf
Horror: The Silence of the Lambs, 28 Weeks Later, The Exorcist, The Shining, Scream, The Descent, Black Swan
Musical: Singin’ in the Rain, Chicago, Cabaret, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Mystery/Suspense: Rear Window, The Manchurian Candidate, SE7EN
Romance (RomComs): The Devil Wears Prada, Bringing Up Baby, Mean Girls, Music & Lyrics
Science Fiction: Star Wars Saga, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Western: I don’t like Westerns, but I guess Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name Trilogy (The Good , the Bad, and the Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; and For a Few Dollars More)
Day 02 – Least Favorite Movie (Listed by Genre)
Children’s: A good deal of them.
Classic: North by Northwest
Comedy: The Birdcage
Cult Classic: Kind of Rocky Horror…
Fantasy: Labyrinth, but don’t tell my mom.
Holiday: Its a Wonderful Life
Horror: Most of them. The Saw franchise, with the exception of the first one.
Musical: Mamma Mia!
Western: most of them. I don’t like Westerns
Gosh, I have several. But the one that has made the most impact on me is undoubtedly George Lucas. I was raised as a bit of a Star Wars geek. It began when my mother was visiting my sister in Germany and my dad took me to see Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace against er wishes. From then on, I was completely obsessed. I was 6 at the time and my obsession grew to me owning almost every single action figure, several electronic banks (in the form of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul), sheets, blankets, music, etc. And from there I fell in love with the original trilogy. I got them from the library every week and watched tem nonstop, every day after school.
Lucas created an incredibly original and immediately recognizable saga, one with wonder and excitement, and he has yet to be outdone, in my opinion, with the exception of his influences like Lord of the Rings and Flash Gordon. And no, James Cameron’s Avatar will not be the new Star Wars of this generation. Star Wars is now and forever.
And Lucas’s career spans further than that, with the pioneering of new technology that has made filmmaking better and easier, like EditDroid, THX sound, the invention of Pixar, the creation of Indiana Jones, and the ever expanding saga of his already vast Star Wars galaxy.
All I can say is,
Thank you, Mr. Lucas.
Day 03 & 04 – Favorite Actress & Favorite Actor
Gosh, that’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to only one. I mean, director was hard enough, so at least I had one to choose from in terms of impact. But there are so many…
Katherine Hepburn: She commanded the screen like almost no one else and was one of the first feminists in Adam’s Rib. She’s in my favorite film, Bringing Up Baby. She had won a total of four Academy Awards.
Natalie Portman: I’m probably still captivated by her performance in Black Swan, but regardless of my bias, I still think she’s a fantastic actress. She’s passionate and driven and she makes every character (with the notable exception of Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequels) believable, right up from her first role in The Professional.
Anne Hathaway: Another younger star, and it’s wonderful how she grew out of the Disney mold so well without becoming one of their many androids. FromThe Princess Diaries to Brokeback Mountain, and from The Devil Wears Pradato Rachel Getting Married, this young ingénue is one of the best actresses working today.
Meryl Streep: 17 Oscar nods, two wins, and one nod for an egomaniac named Miranda Priestly. ‘Nuff said.
Lauren Bacall, Paulette Goddard, and Vivien Leigh: The greatest beauties of the screen were also some of the most talented. Bacall broke Bogart’s heart in Casablanca, as well as ours; Goddard’s gamine made Chaplin’s tramp “Smile” in Modern Times, and Vivien Leigh, contrary to Mr. Rhett Butler, made us give a damn about her and her breathtaking performance in Gone with the Wind. Oh, yeah and she was also rather “desired”, haha.
Cary Grant: The obvious epitome of class and male perfection, Grant remains an indelible image upon the silver screen. Not only was he charismatic, he was also, of course, very talented. From hard hitting suspense dramas with Hitchcock to comedies with Howard Hawkes, Grant is the man’s man.
Sean Connery: Growing up as a huge James Bond fan, I actually didn’t become partial to Connery’s performance until I was 13 or 14. As an erudite 11 year old, I found Connery’s performance bland, formulaic, and overrated. But, as I began maturing and really analyzing the performances in films, I came to appreciate the dry sense of humor the perfect delivery of the consequently cheesy lines, and the debonair demeanor that Connery brought to the role of Bond, James Bond. He went on to prove himself as an Oscar worthy actor inThe Untouchables, and was brilliantly amusing in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Jimmy Stewart: Charming, funny, and he apparently was a genuinely nice person. I believe Harvey was one of the very first films I ever saw, and therefore, his niceness, mild mannered demeanor, and niceness probably had a big impact on who I am today. That may sound farfetched, but it’s not. Certainly not if you have met me and have seen at least one of his films. Although, I must say, I’ve always despised the film It’s a Wonderful Life.
Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton: What I was little, I used to watch silent films all the time. Day in and day out, night and day, what have you, I would watch the slapstick and pantomime masters constantly, bewildered and bedazzled at their talents. I quite recently fell in love with their work all over again, getting Modern Times on Criterion Blu-ray for Christmas and laughing myself silly, but also gazing at amazement at the “silent” erudition and thought Chaplin had. I also ended up watching The Kid. Keaton always appealed to me a tad more than the Tramp for some reason. I don’t actually know why, because, at the moment, I love them both equally. But his Steamboat Bill Jr. and the General remain absolute classics and favorites in my eyes. Maybe it’s because I perceived Keaton as more humanistic and real than the Tramp when I grew up…which is quite untrue now that I am rediscovering the fantastic innovation and entertainment of the silent era. Chaplin’s Tramp was, if anything, far more humanistic and real that I remembered.
Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp: Gosh, I would watch these guys in nearly any film. They’re perhaps two of the most versatile actors living today. Chameleons, true chameleons. One playing a handicap able war hero one minute, a man dying of AIDS the next. The other playing a metrosexual pirate one second, and a murderous barber in a blink. As much recognition as these two get, I think they deserve even more. They’re brilliant behind the lens as well, as Tom Hanks has produced many a mini-series, such as Band of Brothers and John Adams, and Johnny Depp is an artist and photographer. I am sorely disappointed the latter did not win the Oscar in 2007 for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Robert Downey Jr.: I don’t care about his personal life, and I know virtually none of it Only vague tales of drug abuse. But, why all the fuss? It’s not like he’s the first. He should really be recognized for how amazing an actor he is. Thank God for his recent “come back” in Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, though he was breaking the fourth wall in such dramatic performances as Chaplin.
Day 05 & 06 – First Movie You Ever Saw & Last Movie You Saw
The First Film I Ever Saw
I remember distinctly growing up watching the silent antics of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Though, more often than not, I was watching one of three films, which I shall count collectively as the first films I ever saw. They were Bringing Up Baby, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Harvey. I think it’s a good thing my mother brought comedy into my life at an early age, exposing me to both great films and great laughs. Imagine had she done only one of the two, letting me watch like The Godfather or something. As good as it is, it’s not a happy movie.
Bringing Up Baby
This is my favorite film of all time, and I really wish sometimes my life were as terribnly crazy and wild as that of Cary Grant’s character, David Huxley. Howard Hawk’s direction is pitch perfect for a screwball comedy, lining up and setting up each scene masterfully. I kind of fit in really well if I were David Huxley, as I am uptight, kind of anal, and hate disruption in my life. Katherine Hpeburn plays ditzy socialite Susan Vance, the kind of woman who I would probably hate, as did Huxley, and then fall madly in love with her, as did Huxley, again. The comedy is so perfectly timed and, while Vance may be kind of stupid, she’s also cunning and fun. I love this film so much, and it remains as my number one favorite film of all time.
Arsenic and Old Lace
Another favorite film of mine, with Cary Grant. See a trend? He’s one of my favorite actors, as I mentioned before. The story of a really dysfunctional family, as Grant’s great aunsts poison old lonely men, as a service to them. Peter Lorre, who was renowned for Fritz Lang’s M, also is in this, but my favorite role is that of John Alexander’s brilliant Teddy “Roosevelt” Brewster, the younger brother to Grant’s Mortimer. Alexander steals every scene as a kind of delusional person who thinks he’s the great president. It is perhaps this role that influenced my political proclivities, especially my affinity towards Roosevelt and his political career. Again, Grant plays an uptight guy who has to keep everything from falling apart. Up there with Bringing Up Baby as one of my top favorite films. I had no idea Frank Capra had directed it.
This is the only film of the three I have not seen since my childhood, which is a shame since my mom and I just recently purchased uit on DVD. The story of a man whose best friend is a pooka named Harvey. A pooka is, essentially, a six foot tall rabbit. And what follows is everyone denying him his belief and calling Jimmy Stewart’s Elwood Dowd insane. I love this film, regardless of how long it’s been since I last saw it, simply because of its delightful quality. Not to mention, the fact that it inspires a belief in everything special, no matter who says it’s not real. If it’s real to you, that is all that matters. Stewart is renowned for being really nice in person, and also, when someone would ask how Harvey was, he would actually reply genuinely that he was well. It is the epitome of a truly amazing film based on the heart of the script, and its lack of cynicism is inspiring.
The Last Film I Saw
This is as good a time as any to flesh out part of my review for the film. Let’s just say that it iscrazy, psychotic, thrilling, and all around an astounding masterpiece. Daron Aronofsky’s perilously taut thriller is basically a contemporary version of the ballet Swan Lake, in which a ballerina, the flawless Natalie Portman, goes absolutely mad and becomes consumed by her role as the Swan Queen. Think of it as a psycho-sexual version of The Red Shoes. She’s haunted by her doppelgänger, played by Mila Kunis. I absolutely love the symbolism in the film and the parallels to the original ballet. I also love the contrast In the three generations of ballerinas: Barbara Hershey, who plays Nina Sayers’ mother; Winona Ryder, a fallen ballerina; and Natalie Portman. The two previous generations are to show how their careers consumed them and ultimately made them crazy, while the relationship between the mother and daughter is not only creepy, but showcases the crazed stage-mother. It’s like Mama Rose from Gypsy on crack. The sadomasochism and devotion to such pain and glory is integral, as well as the sexual transformation of Natalie Portman. Yes, there is a very graphic lesbian sex scene in the film, but I think this is absolutely necessary, regardless of its graphic depiction. This is coming from a critical aspect, not a guy aspect. The fact that Nina is becoming the Black Swan in order to convince the choreographer, a cunning and ruthless Vincent Cassel, her sexual change, drastic tough it is, is essential to her character development. I need to see this film again. It was so good, and I want it fresher in my mind when I write my full review. It’s really an extraordinary masterpiece, and I think that the hand held cameras used in production, though tedious at first, only add more immersion to the film and let you experience the madness that Nina is descending into. What an amazing film!
Day 07 – A “Guilty Pleasure” Movie
Seed of Chucky
I used to have this very strange fascination with horror movies of all types. While I detest the subgenre now, I was into slasher films. I have, thankfully, adjusted my tastes since then but one film in particular, with its mix of horror and bawdy and weird comedy, still kind of appeals to me. Seed of Chucky, the last sequel in the killer doll series and the second with Jenifer Tilly, is really, quite frankly, hilarious. The self-referential style and its constant poke at Hollywood and obsession with glamour is really funny. It’s really nice, actually, that since Bride of Chucky in 1998 that the Child’s Play series took a less serious, more amusing turn. Brad Dourif, though maniacal, has very good comic timing. The ridiculousness of a mechanical doll enhances the humor, and the fact that Tilly plays both Chucky’s betrothed Tiffany and herself, just makes it better. Tilly plays the washed-up movie star really, really well. The line where she compares her career from being an Oscar nominated actress in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway and regressing to a formulaic horror film is actually a great way of talking about how sometimes people do movies for the paycheck. Billy Boyd, the adorable hobbit form Lord of the Rings, plays Chucky’s son. Yeah, that Jack Torrance-ish dolly has a son. IN a direct allusion to the notorious Ed Wood film, the son’s name is Glen…and Glenda. He has no anatomy, and is kind of confused about his identity, but, the merciless comedy and the fighting to make the son a girl or a boy between his two parents is not only realistic and tender, but again, completely hilarious. The “be a man” thing from Chucky involves getting back into murder, while the “be mommy’s little girl” comes from Tiffany. All in all, it’s a really fun film to watch, and its pace is pretty fast. This is my favorite guilty pleasure film.
Day 08 – A Movie Quote that Made You Think, Hours After You Saw It
“If you can’t be famous, why not be infamous?”
It’s not really a quote, actually. It’s the tagline for the film Chicago. I’ve thought about this quote for seven or eight years now, and with each passing year, it gains more strength and becomes even truer. The media enjoys flocking to idiots who do stupid things for their fifteen minutes of fame. What used to be merely fifteen seconds has become, with the advent of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc., a longer time in the limelight. And the thing is, the people who commit these travesties, fo either human nature, intellectualism, or any other crime, know that people will flock to them. Chicago, based on the play from 1926 and then the Bob Fosse musical from 1975, is the story of a woman who murders her lover and is brought to trial, while basking in the media frenzy. If anything, media frenzy over suckh things has gotten bigger. From the OJ Simpson case to the Tiger Woods infidelity fiasco, the media, and the public, love to watch someone fall. It’s become so extreme, even Lady Gaga has something to say about. Her song “Paparazzi” tells the story of a stalker, but also talks about how people can be consumed by their fame, one of the reasons why she ended up writing her second album (or extended play, depending on how you see it) The Fame Monster. As shown at the end of the film, when Roxie gets off, there’s always another story, as well as the fallback from all that fame. Another quote that resonates with me from the film is when Roxie, played by Renee Zellweger, says “They didn’t even take my picture.” People will do anything these days. Just look at Jersey Shore.
Day 09 – Favorite Movie as a Child
I think I already answered this question wit the first films I ever saw…
Bringing Up Baby
Arsenic and Old Lace
And I suppose I can throw in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
Day 10 – Anything Film-related
This is an exceptionally vague title… but, so I suppose I will include one of my favriote reviews I’ve written in a while: The Social Network.
It’s interesting that in the last ten or so years, new verbs have popped up and become a legitimate part of the English vernacular. “Google” is a verb. “Text” as well as “sext” has entered our vocabulary. There’s “e-mail” and even “tweet” for Twitter. And probably most recently and with one of the biggest windstorms is “friend”. This means “to add as an acquaintance after you’ve met once, on a social networking website”. This is all thanks to the complex, conniving, and incredibly narcissistic Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and co-founder of Facebook. Anyone reading this review probably has a good idea of what Facebook is, even if they aren’t a member. So, David Fincher, the spectacular director of layered and extraordinary films like Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has assembled one of the best films I have seen in years. It is an incredible commentary on society, obsession, narcissism, plagiarism, larceny, and the idea of the wunderkind, the young billionaire.
Mark Zuckerberg is played with gusto by Jesse Eisenberg. We first see him at Harvard in late 2003 basking in self-love on a date, and it is his hyper intelligence and fast talking lack of humbleness that gets him dumped. He vents by blogging about the poor young woman and then creating a special website called “FaceMash”, which allows people on the Harvard campus to compare women by “hotness”. This is before Facebook was even invented. As he hacks into the Harvard system, he attains a whopping 22,000 hits on “FaceMash”, crashing Harvard’s seemingly safe network.
The film then jumps to what we can assume is present time, where Zuckerberg is in the middle of two court depositions for “stealing intellectual property” by the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) and by his ex-best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Fincher uses the jumping back and forth between depositions as a method of plot narrative, blending storyline and dialogue within the story with the testimony that Mark, Eduardo, and the Winklevosses give. This is similar to what he did in the nursing home in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but done a bit cleaner and more consistently. However, like most films that choose to have someone tell the story or have something going on to tell the story, midway through it gets caught up in itself and loses that part. But it comes back in the pivotal end. A good example of how one balances polot narrative and actual storyline is in Christopher Nolan’s physcholoigical thriller Memento. Nolan balances the narrative out in pleasant and concise flashbacks between the main character’s memory and what seems like present time.
As the story progresses, the evidence unravels, leaving the audience to decide what the verdict should be. The basic question being that, while the Winklevosses have sued Mark for stealing the idea of “The Facebook”, is it true? There was no coding that was copied, but does exact coding matter? If Mark had a, shall we say, more likable personality, then perhaps we would jump on his side. But, for better or worse, Zuckerberg is so infatuated with himself; it seems that he is in the wrong. ‘
Fincher, who normally has created a very stylized kind of film with glorious cinematography and quaking visuals, has stepped away from letting the camera take place of the story. He lets the film become very character centric, letting every character- tell their side of the story without distracting the audience with annoying and visually cumbersome movements.
Aaron Sorkin, who used the supposed exposé The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich as his foundation for the screenplay, presents a witty, dark, funny, and incredible screenplay that is as fast talking and non-stop amazing as any dialogue Quentin Tarantino has ever written. He particularly is adept at writing the lines for Mark’s character, who suffers from what I like to call “motor mouth”, which is about self explanatory.
The interesting thing about Eisenberg’s character and portrayal is how changed Eisenberg has become. Eisenberg usually plays the gawky and wallflowery nice guy we’ve come to love
iin Adventureland and Zombieland. But here, his cute face and adorable curls give way to a sulking, egomaniacal character, whose sullen facial expressions as lawyers go over the evidence in his case completely sway us in how we perceive him as a person. It’s very fascinating: Eisenberg is usually very charming looking, but he descends into a pale and gaunt ghost of a man. Zuckerberg is a not someone I would like to meet. He is so narcissistic that whenever someone asks him a question he doesn’t feel like answering, he circumnavigates trying to confuse and condescend the questioner. He speaks at nearly 100 miles per minute, and uses his hyper intelligence to belittle everyone around him.
The film then becomes the central idea and fable of obsession and how it eats us. After being approached by the Winklevosses, Zuckerberg becomes completely obsessed with the idea of “The Facebook”, spending every waking hour writing thousands and thousands of lines of code. He becomes consumed by this idea, and once Facebook gets off the ground, he becomes consumed with making it as viral as possible. Another interesting thing is that he doesn’t really care about money. Rarely do we see a wunderkind that isn’t obsessed with greed. He seems to be more obsessed with the idea of viral identity; making known to everyone who he is and what he has done.
Zuckerberg is so conniving and so egotistical; he doesn’t even realize how conniving and egotistical he actually is. That’s his weakness. That’s why he only has one friend. The tagline of the film is very revealing: You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. But they aren’t friends. Just as we can hardly say that the 500 or more people we “know” on Facebook are actually friends. Zuckerberg redefined the word, and not in a particularly good way. He wants to expand it so everyone can be part of this huge hurricane of technology. And I haven’t even begun to talk about Sean Parker.
Sean Parker was the founder of the music file sharing website Napster, a predecessor to iTunes and even LimeWire. He approaches Mark with a business deal, and he wins him over the moment he struts into the restaurant. Parker, played with perfect pizazz and malevolent charm by Justin Timberlake, seems less of a serious entrepreneur and much more of a player, juvenile party boy. If Zuckerberg were a jerk Adam, then Parker was the snake in the Garden of Eden.
The incorporation of the evolution of how many of the features and terms that we use today are done fantastically and often very humorously. Eduardo breaks up with his girlfriend (Brenda Song, yes, from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) only after she noticed his relationship status as “single”. “Writing on the wall” takes on a new meaning and Parker comes up with the idea for the Facebook Wall.
After Parker nabs Zuckerberg and allows him to betray Eduardo, their life becomes…less than exemplary. Never has the life of being a wunderkind, an unusually young and unusually successful person, been so unappealing. People getting stoned and drunk at their house in California, going to annoyingly loud night clubs, etc. It seems incredibly bad.
Fun part of the film: during the end credits, the Beatles’ song “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” plays, noting that, as McCartney and Lennon intended, it’s obvious that you’re rich. Here’s no need to point it out further. Zuckerberg flaunts his IQ and his Facebook around like a new sports car.
Entertainment Weekly called Mark Zuckerberg the new anti-hero. But is he really? Don’t we have to root for an anti-hero, like, say, Roxie Hart in Chicago,John Dillinger in Public Enemies, or the titular characters in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Even though they did bad things, we still want them to win in the end. But Zuckerberg is so unlikable; he makes it almost impossible to like him. Garfield’s Eduardo on the other hand is much more sympathetic, as we see him get screwed over time after time. The film is sure to get Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Sorkin’s great writing, and Fincher’s masterful direction. But with the social commentary on obsession, trends, and society’s egomaniacal tendencies, Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher present one of the most landmark films to ever make a statement about tech obsessed, egomaniacal, narcissistic, lack-of-attention-span, multitasking society, while Eisenberg gives a portrayal worthy of a Best Actor nomination and the title of one of the most interesting, complex, layered villains in recent cinematic memory.
Day 11 – A Movie Trailer
I’ve always been terribly in love with trailers and TV spots, so much so that when I was younger, I would spend whole days watching the trailers and TV spots that came on the James Bond and Star Wars DVDs. Trailers have the unenviable job of encompassing the theme, the power, and, of course, the plot, in a mere two-to-three minute sequence. Yes, trailers rarely live up to the actual film, but regardless, each one is a work of art used to entice the audience. I have thus decided to pick two of my favorites from two of my favorite films.
Stranger Than Fiction
I love this Charlie Kaufman-esque film because of its strange story and its emotional power. And while it’s not completely intact in the trailer, the intrigue, mystery, humor, drama, comedy, and tragedy still manage to be present. (There’s a better one, but I couldn’t find it.) The trailer pretty much gives you a pretty good idea of what the film is about; a woman with writer’s block as she creates a character who just happens to be real? That’s why I was looking for a different trailer. There’s one that really enhances the appreciation of what it’s like to discover you’re a fictional character who’s going to be offed at the end of the book. But, even so, this one is pretty good.
I love me a good musical, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to advertise or create a trailer for a musical without any snippets of the musical sequences. It’s been tried, though. In 2007, Tim Burton tried to showcase his film as merely a horror film. This move was criticized by the press and critic, but the trailer still had one otr two excerpts (from “Epiphany”, as far as I can recall). Luckily, that film was very good and no one particularly cared it was a musical. Chicago however is an unabashed theatrical exhibition of flash and flare. And, the plot being explained in a bit of a minimalist way (girl shoots lover, starts to dance her troubles away), they most definitely make a point to utilize the great actors and actresses shimmying on the dance floor. And the color scheme, a blood red and morbid black paired with very flamboyant lighs, is great too!
Day 12 – Favorite Animated Film
You know, I thought this would be very difficult, but this one is actually quite easy. My favorite animated film is WALL-E, a gorgeous and fantastic film by those obnoxiously good geniuses at Pixar Animation Studios. Why is it so appealing? Why the hell does it move me to tears almost every time? Why is it so damn good?
I don’t know exactly why, but the awkward geek in me certainly identifies with that little adorable Waste Allocation Load Lifer, Earth-class. Falling in love with someone who’s out of your galaxy is nothing surprising or new to me, but while I sympathize with that and such, what makes the film so great is its unabashed and expert display of human pathos in robot characters. The film, with almost no dialogue, was reliant on the animators getting every look, subtle and overexpressed, and the sound designers (headed by Oscar winner Ben Burtt ofStar Wars fame) every eloquent beep just right. Those little nods of the head, EVE’s LED eyes, WALL-E’s lenses; every movement suggests human emotion and a need to be loved.
I am no artist, as I can barely draw a cube. But drawing something perfectly has nothing to do with artistry. What matters is the emotion that the work provokes. The ability to show those emotions and subtleties on screen with things that can’t really talk is really astounding. Besides the cutesy, maddening (in a good way) romantic scenes, human pathos and human idiosyncrasy is shown in one of my favorite scenes:
Bewildered, bedazzled, and shocked by coming upon someone with such immense beauty and prowess, WALL-E attempts to show her his humble abode and some of his favorite trinkets. He shows off his favorite video tape, an old VHS tape (really?) of Gene Kelly’s 1968 adaptation of Hello, Dolly! Exuberant and trying somewhat to impress her, he shows her the sequence “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “IT Only Takes a Moment”. The best part of the whole scene happens even before this display. EVE picks up the tape, and seeing its shiny magnetic ribbon proceeds to pull it out. Shocked and dismayed, WALL-E tries to wind it back. He puts the tape in, scared and hopeful, to see if it still works. He begins rocking back and forth and playing with his hands, hoping against hope that the tape will still work. It does, thankfully.
We have all done that. We’ve all dropped something, like a CD or some device, and immediate picked it up and tried to get it working. We’ve swayed from side to side and played with our hair or hands. These little idiosyncrasies are human nature, and the installation of such power and human pathos is pure magic.
And what is storytelling but magic and escapism? WALL-E true lovely, if politically overt, story is nothing but a wonder to behold, filled with just as much intensity and beauty as any Kubrick, Lynch, Godard, or Renoir film. Animation is only a medium, a medium for creating magic.
Day 13 – A Movie that Disappointed You
Quantum of Solace
One of my biggest disappointments was Quantum of Solace, the only direct sequel the James Bond franchise ever had. I haven’t seen it since its release in 2008; I, even in my Bond fanaticism, have held out from buying the film; and I have avoided ever seeing it again. It wasn’t exactly a bad movie, but in comparison with the fantastic film Casino Royale directed by Marc Forster, it’s really dreadful. Casino Royale set the bar for the modern Bond film. It was new, hip, and really great. It brought a new Bond to light, one that was emotional, physical, and vulnerable.
And from that high, there was a new hope for the James Bond series. It was reinvigorated by its new brutality and its new actor. And then they tried way too hard to recreate the fun, excitement, and pathos from the previous film. Marc Forster is a perfectly capable director. The Kite Runner is an excellent film andStranger Than Fiction is one of my all-time favorites. He has a wonderful visual style and mind. But, it seems not to be very well suited for the James Bond series.
I suppose I don’t blame him. The expectations were very high. But is that really a viable excuse for such a lousy movie? The storyline was rather thin, and the cinematography was all over the place. The villain was so forgettable; I don’t even remember his name. The Bond girls were noting particularly special.
But that was the whole point of Casino Royale. There was a woman who shook James Bond up. There was a villain who scarred him. The woman broke his heart. While it’s not possible to recreate that kind of tenderness for every film, why bother doing it again? Let’s move on. As fascinating as the further character transition would have been, it didn’t work out.
Not to mention the theme song was lousy. Alicia Keys and Jack White, of the White Stripes, wrote and recorded “Another Way to Die”, which has very similar chord arrangements and seeming samples of the better previous theme, Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name”. It had a similar kind of “message” that Madonna’s “Die Another Day” had in 2002, but not nearly the big, brassy, theatrical Bond music. But, again, they tried to copy. “You Know My Name” was not theatrical, it was a natural rock song. It was, as the film was, a new beginning. The song was a message both to Vesper Lynd and to the audience from Mr. Bond himself. It said “You think you know me, who I am, but you don’t. I’ve seen worse, different.” It was a reintroduction of someone we thought we knew all about. But “Another Way to Die” was none such song.
The film was a major disappointment in terms of storyline and in action. It just felt like a lousy rehash of what we’d see before, only the final product, as much as it seemed stressed, felt halfhearted. Or maybe that was was the audience’s reaction.
Day 14 – A Movie You Want to See, But Haven’t Gotten Around to Seeing
There’s a lot of movies that I want to see that I haven’t gotten around to seeing, mostly because I don’t get out that often and I no longer have Netflix. And I have a lot of homework. Among them are:
Pan’s Labyrinth (again)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Dial “M” for Murder
The 39 Steps
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Passion of the Christ
The King’s Speech
The Kids Are Alright
Up in the Air
The Hurt Locker
Day 15 – A Movie You’ve Seen at Least 10 Times
I’m very good at watching films over and over again. One might think, “Well, with that time, you could watch a new movie!” That is true, but why not relive the memories and laughs and tears you created from one of your favorites? And here, I have a list of the films I like to watch again, and again, and again, and again….
Jonathan Lynn’s pitch perfect murder-mystery comedy has an incredible cast and is completely ridiculous, but in a good way. Tim Curry is excellent as Wadsworth, the butler. And so follows the board game of mystery, suspense, and comedy. Very enjoyable.
I love musicals, and, while Chicago was not my first in a long shot, my obsession with jazz standards and 1920’s culture definitely stemmed from this film. Add all that social commentary and excellent numbers by Rob Marshall and a great cast and you have a match made in musical heaven.
I grew up as a Star Wars geek, so I have, of course, seen Star Wars tends of hundreds of times.
One of my favorite comedies, the masterwork from Mel Brooks makes me laugh every single time.