Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Do The Right Thing, Again

I was disappointed to find that when I start teaching something my love for it tends to wane.

Of Mice and Men didn't seem as heartwarming once I had to read 30 papers about it's heartwarmingness.

Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice wasn't as caustic once I had to hear daily class debates about how caustic he was.

It's not a complaint about students, just about my failure to elicit complex responses.

So I was worried when I decided to teach film study through Do the Right Thing. I didn't really want to ruin my love of that movie.

Another 30 papers will come in tomorrow with analyses regarding how cinematic devices reflect the philosophies of Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. And I'm loving Do The Right Thing more with each passing class period.

The angles used on Radio Raheem and Da Mayor subtle support the struggle for power by force rather than through mindless oration.

The color coded costuming of the violent Pino in White and the peaceful Vito in Black enhances non-violent philosophies while turning older stereotypes of "wearing the black hat" on it's ear.

The diagetic laughter while the camera zooms in on Italian Wall of Fame pictures enflames the dormant white philosophy of superiority on the black masses.

The five close-ups of hate followed by Senor Love Daddy's close-up tirade for love uses a change in motion to accentuate the merits of action and peaceful action at that for positive social change.

The vague conclusion of Radio Raheem's LOVE V. HATE soliloquy foreshadows the eventual conclusion of the film, but the lighting on each knuckle continues the long running device of Hate in darkness and love in light.

These are all impressively logical interpretations of this film. And they are all developed by 17 year old kids who had never thought about these philosophies or cinematic devices until three weeks ago.

I've never thought of half of these things, and I'm geeking out over the movie even more.

I love my job.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Upsets and Blowouts

Gunhhhuh? What...uh...I, wait, what?

Why's my beard so long? What's that nasty odor? Why am I writing stream of consciousness on a blog?

Is that the last time this site was updated? July 1st...well...oh, today's the second...oh...of September you say?

Well that would explain the beard and odor at least.

I'm sorry, I just woke up from a two month long nap, and I'm just trying to get readjusted.

I suppose it's worth looking at the news of life in the sporting world since I've been asleep.
Oh, cripes, the Tour De France sucks again.
Oh, well, Barry Bonds did what we all knew he was going to do.

Oh, hell, the Yankees are winning again. Vick does what?!?!?

This is awful, this is disgusting, this whole thing just makes me want to remove ESPN from my favorites and wash my hands of all the cheating, sadistic, multi-millionaires and their petty problems.

Oh...wait...Appalachian State did what?


In Ann Arbor?


I love sports.

A team that, granted, is probably the Ohio State of Division IAA football, just beat Michigan, which is the Michigan of Division IA football. I know that the Mountaineers are responsible for a great deal of moaning and groaning in Montana, particularly around Missoula where the moans and groans are bested only by the sounds of the String Cheese Incident being blared from dorm rooms day and night.

But still.

Appalachian State beat Michigan.

That's pretty friggin sweet.

And what's this I see? Oh, of course Man U's back in business, and Beckham's injured again, but if you look closely you'll see something far cooler. That Iraq won the Asian Football Cup. That qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, the one that everyone in the soccer world adn their mom dismissed, have started up and are going swimmingly. Or as swimmingly as they can when it involves Vanuatu and American Samoa (For the record, American Samoa, 15:0? The U.s. finally starts to get it's soccer act together and you lose 15:0 to Tonga? Bush is going to invade you...or he would if he could find you on a map...or if I could find you on a map...I'm sorry American Samoa, you can come back now).

There's something special about this. Not so much the gambling or the steroids or the puppy pulverizing, not even the fact that two countries 99% of the world couldn't find on a map are playing for the right to have the right to play for half of a right to play for a spot in the World Cup. But the fact that far from the glare that most people care about, from the popping flashbulbs that chronicle how Barry's head grows each day, or how Michael's goatee seems flecked with spittle, or how Alex's wife wears her t-shirts, there are people playing because that's what they do. They just play. Not because they have a whole lot of chance to make millions professionally, not because they have any real hope of playing in the most prestigious tournament on the planet, but just because, it's a game, and it's fun.

So here's to you Julian Rauch, you and your wobbly 24 yard kick.

And here's to you Armanti Edwards, you and your 3 Touchdown catches.

And here's to you Corey Lynch, not as cooly named, but just as vital to the field goal blocking glory that is yours.

And here's to you Roy Krishna and your Fijian side that's looking to share half a column with ijay Singh.

And here's to Viliamu Seifiku of Tuvalu, who's 87th minute goal earned the team that isn't even recognized by FIFA a draw with comparative heavyweights Tahiti, more or less knocking the Tahitians and Axel Williams (who, you've got to admit, would probably be cooler to hang out with than Axel Rose: Dissolute 80's hair rocker V.s. Tahitian football player...go with the Tahitian). To you Viliamu! To you for taking the 16:0 drubbing from Roy Krishna and coming back with your side's only goal of qualifying!

I'm going back to sleep for two months...and despite all the inanities that are doubtless to follow, I'll keep coming back to meet the new Julians, Armantis, Coreys Roys and Viliamus Seifikus...hell I'll even come back for the Axels, they're far more worth cheering than the multimillionaires.

They are me.

They are you.

They just play.

And they play well.


Okay, maybe they aren't quite me.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Knock Out

So, to conclude this whole wonderfully dorky experiment with movies and our views on them, here a few quick things to digest:

1) The highest ranked AFI movie that Brent and I both left off of our list: Gone With the Wind at #6.
Brent's already explained how Titanic is merely our generations version of Gone with The Wind and if, for some reason, that isn't enough for you to agree with leaving it off the list, let me just say that I enjoyed watching Gone with the Wind because my younger brother and I sat eating candy for three hours cheering Sherman and damning Vivien Leigh so loudly that the neighbors complained. Frankly my dear, I really don't give a damn.
(Other popular picks that Brent and I paid no attention to, 2001: A Space Odyssey, It's a Wonderful Life, E.T., Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)

2) The highest ranked movies that Brent I listed that AFI did not were both at numbe 10 on our lists: Brent's Blue Velvet and my Hoop Dreams both missed the cut. I'm not sure why Brent's isn't there, and I'll vent about the absence of Hoop Dreams in a minute.

3) I had 57 movies on the AFI list, Brent had 39 (between us 65). That's actually not something to brag about, I'm just a dork who likes this sort of thing, and you're apparently a dork who reads this sort of thing, so I thought you might be interested...though probably not in dating me any more, right?

4) There are plenty more debates to be had about this kind of thing, and doubtless Brent and I have proven ourselves to have both the time, energy and inclination to waste our lives in pointless banter for our own amusement. The greatest directors? Actors? Actresses? Comedies? There's plenty to bring to the table. The most overrated movie (clearly we're both thinking Gone with the Wind) the most underrated movie (That Dr. Strangelove is our combined number one, and yet rates below a movie I put on at #99 and Brent utterly despises should be a sign), the most overrated underrated movie, the most underrated overrated movie (Ordinary People? Not better than Raging Bull, but not the crap everyone thinks it is), Action movies, date movies, and the kind of movies that let you know: Hey-this-is-a-person-I-should-hang-out-with-more (my sister-in-law's idea).

There's time for all of those, and if we've drastically misjudged our audience, if there are in fact a throng of people out there loving these posts and eager to join the discussion just post a quick comment saying what you want us to argue about and we will argue about it.

But lets start with this.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why documentaries were not allowed on the AFI list. I've been trying to figure it out for weeks now.

*Is it because it's not as great of a challenge to simply record life and then edit it into a story, but it is a great challenge to meticulously force life to look like what you want it to?

*Is it because actors and actresses in several pounds of make up wearing thousand dollar costumes on elaborate sets, often with the aid of technical assistance tell us more about our lives then we do?

*Is it because there are only a handful of documentarians and their subject can usually step right back into their normal lives without missing a beat but there are thousands of people for whom movies are their lives and they would like to congratulate eachother rather than opening up to the people actually in touch with the real world?

Whatever the case, documentaries are not allowed. And that is a shame. I don't think that Hoop Dreams is the best film ever made, but I think it comes closer than most movies I've seen. Even ths techinical aspects, the editing, the camera angles, the sound effects, they all combine to make three hours pass like three minutes. I love the other movies on my top 10 but why isn't Hoop Dreams even allowed to compete?

I could go on more, about how sports is a great way to view the American experience (witness Raging Bull #1 for Brent, #3 for me, #4 for AFI), or about how the American dream is best demonstrated the people who don't have anything rather than the people who have everything (probably why I root for Arthur and William and want Scarlett and Rose to suffer some brutal torture), but instead I'll pivot this topic to another one that's been bothering me.

Is Michael Moore a talented film maker or a moronic toady who intentionally harasses people into making a profit for himself?

I can't believe I'm asking that question. I'm a Democrat. I'm a liberal. I'm for Universal Health Care, and better public schools, and I'll gladly pay higher taxes to do so. I'm embarassed by the government's allowances for guns, and willingness to go to war, I should agree with Michael Moore, so why is it everytime he comes out with a movie I'm tempted to go write a check to the RNC?

Perhaps it's because of my love of Hoop Dreams. There you have a real story, unedited, unvarnished, unchanged from what happened in real life. The directors became part of the lives of two boys, talked with their parents, heard their pain and eventually helped pay for some of their college tuition.

Michael Moore takes real life, and jams his fat bloated face into every frame, forcing the rest of the people in his little drama to pay attention to him and to emote and react to what he's talking about at any given time. He looks like he cares on film, but you have to ask yourself, who really wants him there?

I shudder during Farenhiet 9/11 when the mother breaks down in tears in front of the White House because I think (perhaps too callously) that Moore kind of wanted that to happen as a means to prove his point, whereas, when William Gates breaks down near the end of Hoop Dreams because he has yet again failed to get his team to the state tournament, the camera stays farther away, not forcing itself into the moment, simply showing him and his family, for no point other than to reflect what matters to people, even if it's as simple as a basketball game.

Or consider Bowling For Columbine when Moore antagonizes Charlton Heston, misleading him at first to believe that he's a good ol' boy with an NRA card, and then holding up a picture of a little girl in an effort to emotionally blackmail the old fuddyduddy. Steve James (one of three directors of Hoop Dreams) is heard only once in the whole movie, asking one of the boys to read him a paper he has written about the life cycle of the butterfly.

I think what makes me maddest about Michael Moore, and most eager to go running to the very people he and I both disagree with, is that he seems to be spurning the good work that other documentarians actually do. He makes oodles of money and gets tons of national press for being selfish, egotistical, callously explotative and atagonistic, while the really good documentaries sit on shelves becuase they show life and leave it at that. Sure, there are exceptions (March of the Penguins, and the smash SuperSize Me most notably) but there's plenty to be celebrated in real life, with real people and film makers who endeavour to show our world to us unvarnished by the glamour of Hollywood, and to ignore them in favor of a man who twists things to his own ends (no matter how much I agree with them) strikes me as foolish.

Any thoughts?

Friday, June 29, 2007

A translation of AFI's posturing

AFI included the following things as “Interesting Facts” about their list. Here is a Montanan Hooligan Annotated version of those interesting facts


This is the first year that RAGING BULL and VERTIGO have made the top 10. They were ranked #24 and #61 respectively when the original AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies poll was conducted in 1997.
Translation: We finally figured out that Raging Bull is a hell of a lot better than Gone with the Wind…sorry.

THE GRADUATE and ON THE WATERFRONT both stay on the list, but drop from their 1997 positions in the top 10. They now hold new positions at #17 (THE GRADUATE) and #19 (ON THE WATERFRONT).
Translation: We realized that The Graduate isn’t that good, and that no one born after 1960 has seen On the Waterfront, so we got rid of them, do you like us now?

Out of the 43 newly eligible films released from 1996 to 2006, only THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (#50), SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (#71), TITANIC (#83) and THE SIXTH SENSE (#89) made the cut.
We only considered major studio blockbuster movies as things that were worthwhile in the last 10 years.

Notice the tit-for tat replacements of some new movies and some of the old ones.
INTOLERANCE (#49)--THE BIRTH OF A NATION (former #44). We figured we had to put something by DW Griffith on the list but didn’t want it to be racist…anymore.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (#75),--GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (former #99). Here’s your Sidney Poitier movie goddamit.
TOY STORY (#99)--FANTASIA (former #58)—Thanks CGI
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (#71)—ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (former #54)—Thank God we finally have a War movie about soldier’s humanity from our point of view, not the Germans
CABARET (#63)--AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (former #68),& MY FAIR LADY (former #91)—We figured we would get rid of two average musicals in favor of a really bad one.
THE SIXTH SENSE (#89)--FRANKENSTEIN (former #87): Makes sense…replace one movie about bringing the dead back to life, with another movie about the dead never really dying.
TITANIC (#83)--GIANT (former #82): There’s only room for one incredibly slow, desperately dull movie about pretty people experiencing sad things.
BLADE RUNNER (#97)--CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (former #64). There’s also only room for one incredibly dull science fiction movie that’s pretending to be more important than it actually is.
12 ANGRY MEN (#87)-- THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (former #67). Gripping portrayals of psychological warfare in black and white without explosions. Yup, only room for one of those too.
DR. ZHIVAGO (former #39), FARGO (former #84), PATTON (former #89), A PLACE IN THE SUN (former #92), AMADEUS (former #53), THE THIRD MAN (former #57), STAGECOACH (former #63)—Russia/Austria/North Dakota/Switzerland aren’t really American, We don’t want to glorify war or people who kill their wives, and uh…Stagecoach is…uh…yeah.

Steven Spielberg is the most represented director with five films: ET, JAWS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, SCHINDLER'S LIST. Spielberg was the most represented director on AFI's original list--also with five films. (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was replaced by SAVING PRIVATE RYAN as the fifth entry.) Directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder each have four films on the list. Frank Capra, Charles Chaplin, Francis Ford Coppola, John Huston and Martin Scorsese each have three.
Once again we decide to cater to movies that people have actually seen rather than challenging them to watch something that’s actually suspenseful (Hitchcock) or well written (Wilder) or funny (Chaplin), we’ll just let them keep rewatching crap like ET and Jaws.
1969 had good movies, 1976 had great movies, and 1982 had a bunch of movies that people still watch….DAMN YOU REGAN!!

Four silent films are featured on the list--and three are new additions: THE GENERAL ((#17), INTOLERANCE (#49) and SUNRISE (#82). MODERN TIMES rounds out the list as the fourth entry, moving up three places to #78.
I’m sorry…what are they counting as sound in City Lights? And the Gold Rush?

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (#34) and TOY STORY (#99) represent the two animated films on the list. Unless you count CGI, or the countless hours it took to animate Brando’s bloated body in Apocolypse Now

The Fabulous 45, Forgotten 15 and Fuh...Fuh..oh just 40 more movies

So, the list is out there now, 100 movies chosen by “experts” in the field. Of course as anyone who has read Freakonomics will tell you (and I think I might be the last one) “experts” don’t know a damn thing.

Conveniently you have two total idiots on this web page devoted to giving you completely idiotic pieces of information. I’ll rip on AFI’s list in more time, but right now I thought you might enjoy seeing how the combined top 100 boils down for the two Montanans brave enough to throw it all on the line.

Brent and I listed the same movie 45 times, then found 15 more that we just plumb forgot to include until we saw the other one put it on his list, the final 40 are just the highest ranked movies that either one of us thinks isn’t that great but the other loves, or that one of us loves and the other hasn’t seen. Here now the Montana Hooligans Film Institute (Patent Pending) Top 100 Films of all time

1 Strangelove
2 Raging Bull
3 The Godfather
4 The Godfather II
5 Sunset Blvd
6 Citizen Kane
7 Do the Right Thing
8 Rear Window
9 Annie Hall
10 Hoop Dreams
11 Pulp Fiction
12 North by Northwest
13 On the Waterfront
14 Manhattan
15 The English Patient
16 The Gold Rush
17 Network
18 Singin' in the Rain
19 Casablanca
20 Lawrence of Arabia
21 Silence of the Lambs
22 Fargo
23 Malcolm X
24 The Apartment
25 Brokeback Mountain
26 It Happened One Night
27 Shakespeare in Love
28 Modern Times
29 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
30 Schindler's List
31 The Manchurian Candidate
32 In the Company of Men
33 Spinal Tap
34 The Great Escape
35 Goldfinger
36 Taxi Driver
37 Sense & Sensibility
38 Waiting for Guffman
39 The Graduate
40 Ben-Hur
41 Streetcar Named Desire
42 City Lights
43 Saving Private Ryan
44 The Kid
45 Platoon
46 Young Frankenstein
47 A Shot in the Dark
48 Before Sunset
49 Before Sunrise
50 A River Runs Through It
51 The Great Dictator
52 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
53 Twelve Angry Men
54 Lilies of the Field
56 Swingers
57 Hoosiers
58 Chasing Amy
59Doctor Zhivago
60 Clerks
61 King Kong
62 Blue Velvet
63 Airplane!
64 Kramer vs. Kramer
65 All About Eve
66 Sideways
67 The Night of the Hunter
68 My Dinner with Andre
69 Blazing Saddles
70 Million Dollar Baby
71 Apocalypse Now
72 The Sting
73 Patton
74 To Kill A Mockingbird
75 High Noon
76 The Shining
77 Philadelphia
78 Nashville
79 The Squid and the Whale
80 The Lion in Winter
81 Crimes and Misdemeanors
82 The Third Man
83 West Side Story
84 The Man Who Knew Too Much
85 The Searchers
86 Drugstore Cowboy
87 Traffic
88 Wizard of Oz
89 Kill Bill
90 Psycho
91 The Ice Storm
92 The Incredibles
93 Being John Malkovich
94 Hannah and Her Sisters
95 M*A*S*H
96 The Princess Bride
97 Betrayal
98 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
99 A Clockwork Orange
100 Double Indemnity

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Best Movie Ever, Or: How I Learned to Laugh at Nuclear Holocausts, Shudder at My Laughter and Laugh at My Shuddering

I was supposed to wait for Brent, I know. But I'm also supposed to leave for Mumbai in 20 hours, and when I'll next have a computer and internet access, I do not know. So, here it is. My number 1.


I’d heard of Dr. Strangelove before. It was funny. Hilarious even. So, when I was a junior in high school and ready to have a guys night, I agreed with my two buddies (one of whom is co-writing this blog with me, the other of whom is engaged or married to my co-writers ex-girlfriend) that we should watch this movie.

I didn’t last long though.

They were refueling a plane. Then there was a woman in a bikini, and I remember liking that. Then we started talking about something and lost all track of the movie. War room, what? Did they just say that guy’s name was Turgetson? What’s a British guy doing in this movie?

In short, Dr. Strangelove did not grab me at first as a contender for the title best movie ever. And, truth be told, I can’t really remember the second time I ever saw it.

But I do remember watching it again and laughing to myself. And then watching it again. And again. And again. And suddenly it dawned on me: “this is everything I love about movies, and nothing I hate.”

There is no overwrought sentimentality. There is no hackneyed dialogue. There are no unnecessary shots of explosions or breasts or any of the kind of things that executives seem to assume we want.

There is a reflection of human behavior. Fear. Hatred. Malice. Love. Lust. Ego. Pride. All included for the purpose of making the situation—as absurd as it is—as real as it can be.

There is, simultaneously, witty banter (“Shoot…a guy good have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all this stuff”) and smiple, honest, awkwardness of language (“one of our pilots went a little funny in the head…oh, you know…just, a little funny.”)

There are explosions because that’s what the movies about, not glamorous, not slow motion, not “wicked cool” but total and utter annihilation.

There are breasts because it’s part of what leads to natural human behavior.

From the first shot, the audience has to acknowledge a different and divergent tone from almost anything they’ve seen before. Planes, mid-flight being refueled. Nothing particularly remarkable, Kubrick actually took it all from long ignored stock footage. And to have it all set against soft, subtle, almost tinkling melodies sets up a monstrous punch-line.

The cast, though limited in many ways to important men in ties or medals, manages to carry through a sense of humanity and personal connection to the audience in the three leads: Slim Pickens, George C. Scott, and Peter Sellars.

I’m as surprised as anyone that Slim Pickens has been in more movies on my list than Spencer Tracy, and I’ve already mentioned how brilliant George C. Scott is, so let me say this about Peter Sellars.

For every two bit, fart joke comedy that you see in the theaters this year, there is a Peter Sellars role that out strips it by a mile. For every lame innuendo and crass characterization, there is a Peter Sellars gag that will knock you out. And suddenly, in this movie, the jokes and easy humor and natural bumbling charm that are so palpable in the Pink Panther movies give way to a series of characters simultaneously absurd and familiar.

Any time I have to deal with a frustrating bureaucrat (which in India is more often than you’d think) I nearly say: “listen, colonel Bat Guano, if that is your real name.” Any time I feel awkward on the phone I nearly say: “Of course I like to talk to you Dimitri. This is just a call to say hello.” Any time my boss is fishing for an idea, I nearly say “mine fuehrer! I have a plan!” Sellars captures all of this in a mere line here, or a line there, in a cocked eyebrow or a nervous shifting of his weight.

And when it all comes to an end, with the iconic image of Slim Pickens riding the bomb to oblivion, and George C. Scott railing about “the mine shaft gap!” you’re left not really laughing so much as smiling, sighing and thinking to yourself: “damn, how close was that to really happening?”

It’s not just the 60’s and the red phone and fingers on switches. It’s today and orange alerts and…well…fingers on switches. It’s not just a thing to laugh at because it’s ridiculous, it’s a thing to laugh at because, if you don’t, you may become ridiculously involved in the fear and forget to laugh.
It’s not just a movie of it’s time, or a movie of it’s place, but it’s something that people can feel at any time, in any cultural context. And it’s a movie that can always, make you laugh.

Friday, June 08, 2007

#31-2: Tom, Tap and Tuetonic Titwillows; Fronk-en-shteen, Frued and Flava Flav; Rage, Rain and Rosebud

30 Philadelphia—It’s less about AIDS and more of an exploration in prejudice. It’s got more to it’s core than Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? And a fuller cast than Lilies of the Field (which I, like Brent, adore). What’s more it has the modern Poitier (Washington) the modern Tracy (Hanks) and the friggin’ man: Jason Robards.

29 Schindler’s List—What sets this move apart from other World War II chronicles is the simplicity of it all. Spielberg is great at showing the immediacy and humanity of one of the most hellish blots on the soul of man kind. The little slap of the red dress amidst all the dismal black and white make it even more real than you can imagine.

28 Spinal Tap—I know it’s only rock and roll but I like it. Brent goes for A Mighty Wind but the nueftet and the rest of the folkies have in numbers the rockers more than make up for in depth (as well as volume and punctuality). As this is the first real major mockumentary it gets some extra points for innovation.

27 High Noon—Unlike Brent, I love a good Western, especially when it has a flawed hero that turns the traditional idolatry of Hollywood into the blunt Western “I’m-great-yeah-but-I’m-also-kind-of-messed-up,-so-don’t-get-all-teary-on-me.” When the hero’s flaw is that he’s a work-a-holic, it makes it all the more accessible. And the clever, real time shooting of the movie (1 hour, 40 minutes from start to showdown) make it even more enjoyable

26 To Kill A Mockingbird—Of all the classic books transferred onto film, this one actually becomes a classic in it’s own right. Every student who reads it starts to wonder what kind of man Atticus Finch is and Gregory Peck embodies the soul of one of literature’s finest heroes. (He probably shouldn’t have beaten out Peter O’Toole for the best actor Oscar…but it’s a little late for that).

25 Patton—When a liberal, anti-war proponent like me is captivated and entranced by modern warfare and a modern warrior you know you’ve got something powerful. George C. Scott’s compulsive passion is a rarity in a biopic, neither idolizing nor knocking down the man, simply showing his humanity and leaving it to the audience to decide.

24 The Sting—Quite simply the gold standard for caper flicks (the Ocean’s 11 franchise still hasn’t snuck past it, despite the gltiz). The charm and poise of Newman and Redford with a gamut of twists so surprising that you never know what’s to be believed and what’s just deceiving you.

23 Million Dollar Baby—My vote for the best Eastwood movie in recent times, and far and away a better Boxing movie than any Rocky (which will somehow sneak on to AFI’s list again). It’s a study of the sport that actually explains why you do somethings and how training really works, and does more with the depth of an average boxer’s life (rub-down-whores and all) and the family you find doing what you love

22 Blazing Saddles—Silly and sophomoric at times, but by and large a supremely witty spoof on the Western (more on satire that starts Brent’s beloved Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright later). Brooks’ manic energy flows through the movie and the twittering Madeline Khan (and perhaps the funniest song ever on film) and cackling Harvey Korman (“That’s Hedley”) culminating in the ironic limo into the sunset; a perfect ending for a modern Western.

21 On the Waterfront—Everyone has heard the line, “I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” But few people actually know the context any more. But seeing Brando’s broken down palooka facing his brother makes an otherwise good drama (with a great supporting cast in Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden) great.

20 Pulp Fiction—Uber-violent, uber-witty, uber-hip. Sometimes it feels like it’s almost too much, to surprising, to daring to be as good as it is. But the trio of excellent stories and charming ne’er-do-wells beautifully balances love and business, friendship and distrust, compassion and violence. Leaving you with as complete an exploration of the human side of the world’s seedy underbelly as you’ll ever see.

19 Annie Hall—Sweetness personified in Alvy Singer’s romance and loss in the Woody Allen film. It has some of the best moments in comedy, including flopping lobsters, out of body sexual experiences and trying to do cocaine with a cold. The love story is fun, but not half as fun and familiar as the longing.

18 Shakespeare in Love—Love and a bit with a dog, oh and brilliant Tom Stoppard dialogue, a cast that doesn’t have a weak link (which, when your cast includes Ben Affleck, is saying something) and a twist on old tales that turn your average Shakespeare class into a suddenly shocking discovery that he’s a man…who liked sex…a lot.

17 The Manchurian Candidate—The kind of thriller that leaves with a twist so remarkably heartbreaking that you forget how long it took you to get there. Forget the modern remake, it’s the brilliance of the original and the hilarity of the garden party scenes that leave you chilled to the bone and curious to examine the motivation of heroes.

16 Do the Right Thing—Spike’s finest hour. Flowing cinematography, fully incorporated music into a movie world (“Fight the Power” is this movie), a host of entertaining and captivating characters, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in all their glory and an ending at once infuriating and frighteningly fair.

15 All About Eve—Manipulations, conniving, backstage back stabbing deceit. The kind of movie every actor loves. It’s less real than Guffman. But for sheer shock in terms of character development, writing and acting, it takes the cake.

14 North by Northwest—Adventure and intrigue set against a middle American backdrop. (Ask yourself, how often do you get a plane chase, gun fire, and explosions in a corn field?) I showed it to my 11th grade class yesterday and even without an introduction, even without any sense of Hitchcock, they were enthralled by the story, the script and the mystery of it all.

13 Fargo—It’s about so much more than the accent (though, for the record, the accents are pretty great). It’s that layer of Minnesota nice that permeates the movie, haunting the screen, the dinner tables, the hookers, the sheriffs. All this and two brilliant performances from Frances McDormand (a sublimely real modern heroine) and William H. Macy (the ultimate in sniveling villainy) help everyone in middle America know, big city crime isn’t as far away as you might think.

12 Young Frankenstein—Arguably the funniest, pure comedy ever. The gags come one after the other after the other, advancing the plot but barely giving you a moment to breathe. Like Blazing Saddles and Shaun of the Dead (I’ve not yet seen Hot Fuzz) it satirizes better than anything else because it actually loves the subject of its mockery. It doesn’t giggle at something that happened five minutes ago, it builds off of the brilliant work someone’s already done (in this case using the same set as Frank Whale’s classic.

11 Rear Window—The most gripping of all of Hitchcock’s movies because we, like Jimmy Stewart, are forced to watch, inert and incapable of changing the situation, but at the same time loving every minute of amateur sleuthing.

10 Hoop Dreams—Michael Moore has a career because this movie made documentaries money makers. But don't hold that against it. It made money and a point with much more class than Moore could ever hope to have. This is America. It’s not gun crazy, or morally deprived. It’s not charmingly intelligent or morbidly obese. It obsesses over things that don’t matter much, but aware of what can be better and what we can do to improve. I find something new to love every time I watch it, and no movie, none, holds me for three hours like this one does.

9 The Apartment—It’s a good comedy, yes, but it’s an even better commentary on sexual and business politics. It manages to captivate and entrance you through all of the witty Billy Wilder banter. Add to that a stellar cast (including the: never watch "My 3 Sons" again Fred McMurry) and a pitch-perfect performance by Jack Lemmon and you have an excellent movie.

8 Singin’ in the Rain—The ultimate in love letters to Hollywood, and the pinnacle of musicals in America. It has a great romance and remarkably catch songs, but more than that it has the archetype romantic comedy best body, and the funniest villainess on film. It’s hard living in India during Monsoon and not singing and softshoeing non-stop. Fortunately there are no walls to try and run up.

7 Citizen Kane—There’s a reason it’s at or near the top of every list in Christendom. It’s a great exercise in cinematography, and story telling as it chronicles the rise and fall of a man and more importantly the man’s ideals. Welles is superb, possessive, maniacal and sincerely committed to doing what he thinks is right.

6 Network—“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” This is the movie that seems to always fade away in discussions of the best-of-the year (it lost to Rocky for God’s sake), or best-of-the-decade, or best-of-all-time. But it deserves to be here.It’s a brilliant cultural critique, and boasts great characters and a brilliant script that captures the lost “TV” generation in Faye Dunawaye’s beautiful, but dead, eyes.

5 Sunset Blvd.—Speaking of William Holden’s love interests, here his creepy (in the most captivating sense of the word) lover is Gloria Swanson who turns him into the most unlikely and unwilling gigolo. Swanson is a superb counterbalance to Holden’s passive acceptance of his role, careening wildly, she doesn’t really need Wilder’s script, after, all as she says: “we had faces!”

4 The Godfather II—It has more depth than the original, in terms of family history and a brilliant portrayal of the immigrant story (the coupling of DeNiro and Pacino as fathers lost in a world they didn’t create but must survive in, is especially moving). And though it adds a little too much to maintain the first film’s astounding focus, but it still holds the audience beautifully.

3 Raging Bull—The beauty of Scorcese’s best work is simply astounding. Gorgeous cinematography, beautiful black and white shots of home, love, and violence all set to the stirring strings of subtle melodies. And DeNiro’s humanity, so perfectly palpable on the screen, could be translated to the life story of anyone, it just happens to be LaMotta’s.

2 The Godfather—Quite simply great, and without any need to explain why. It’s a robust and fully developed family drama, leaving no doubt as to why modern writers and movie makers allude to it more often than Shakespeare and the Bible. Everyone has a moment that they suddenly realize how powerful it is. For me, it was watching James Caan get shot at the toll booth while my brother walked by, saw my mouth gaping and said: “told you so.”

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


A reprieve from films: Barry "U.s." Bonds

I'm flattered that Brent, the inimitable scholar and gentleman that he is still values my baseball opinion so highly. Clearly, working for the Great Falls White Sox for three months and directing Kenny Williams (architect of a franchise's first World Series title in 80 some years) to the ballpark is good for something.

So. Barry.

I like Barry.

I always liked Barry.

I am still sure that he threw out Sid Bream at home in 1991, and that Andy Van Slyke and Doug Drabek are more to blame for the Pirates losses than Barry is. (Okay, not really, but you get my meaning...and if you don't pretend that you do.)

As Barry scales the mountain towards Hammerin' Hank, I--like every baseball fan--have some mixed feelings. Brent gave you the figures (near .300 average, 8 Gold Gloves, 6 MVPs, the only man ever to hit 500 homeruns and steal 500 bases). He's right, Barry's awesome. He's incredibly talented. A gift from the Gods, a newer Mantle, or Mays, but he's forgotten. So what about Brent's questions, allow me to answer them as though they were my final exam (only with more fluency than my students use on their final exams.

1) Why do we hear so much talk about Federer as the best all-time tennis player and so little about Bonds as the best all-time baseball player?
First, I think this is a tad untrue. A few years ago, everyone was talking about Bonds as the best all-time baseball player. Until the whispers about his muscles and head and backne became chatter, became tirades, became fodder for every news organization in the known universe (The Onion has two pieces in the last month on his chase).
But there is precedent. In 1999, when they named the all-century team, the voters in America gave a spot to Ken Griffey Jr. and not to Bonds. Bonds wasn't even close (456,000 votes behind Pete Rose for the final spot, and 13,000 behind Ricky Henderson). Yes, it was a meaningless promo for Mastercard, but still, you have to figure, a game as beloved as Baseball as universally acknowledged, for all its faults and foibles as the American game (much to Football's--dominant as it is--chagrin). So we laud the players we want to laud and lose the rest. When, as Brent pointed out, a player is: " a churlish player on whose grave many beat writers will gladly dance." Griffey smiles. Barry sulks. Jeter's got charm. Barry's got his hand in your face.
So we don't really talk about him as the greatest player of all time, because we really don't want him to be that. We want someone charming and graceful, good with kids and helpful in the community. This is why Roger Maris was loathed during the Home Run battle in '61. This is why Pete Rose was beloved while going after Ty Cobb (a man, unlikable in his own right). It's not spite, it's just denile.

2nd) Where does Bond rank among the greats?
Well, the numbers are compelling. In addition to the history making 40-40 club, and 500-500 club, he'll top Aaron (probably finishing around 770, before knee injuries force him to stop) and though his average will sink a little more (probably around .297-.298, still awfully high for a power hitter) and he has no chance to win a World Series this year. (Though, for the record, the last two trips to the post season he was awfully good, crushing 6 homers against the Marlins in '03, and carrying the Giants to 7 outs from a Series title in '02), he will finish with
That's damn good. In terms of numbers he tops most every player in the game's history. Cobb doesn't have the power. Ruth and Aaron didn't have the speed, and has a better slugging and On Base Percentage than Mays. Williams, DiMaggio, Mantle, the vastly underrated Frank Robinson, and Yogi Berra: great, but really not the same.
Every player has a failing, Williams wasn't a great fielder either, Aaron and Cobb never won titles, and Ruth and Aaron were every bit the offensive hangers on that Barry has become (Aaron actually was a DH in Milwaukee). So all the critiques of Barry really don't stick.
If you notice I've been dancing around the issue of where he actually does rank though. He has ranked ahead of everyone else (as recently as 2002/2003...but Pujols was gaining pretty quick by a young Inigo Montoya ready to challenge the 6 Fingered (or 6 ringed man) again).
I'd say Barry is great. One of the best. The steroids tarnish that. As does the American obsession with "winning the big one," and the general loathing that comes out of most of America about the man. He's not the best. Mays is the best player of all time. Cobb would actually be my vote for a close second followed by Aaron. Ruth, for all his greatness, isn't much more than 4th for me, and to be honest I'd be willing to put Barry above him based on pre-73 numbers.
Those are the 5. For a while.
Until A-Rod's hits 800 with Pujols hot on his heels. Then we have another conversation to deal with.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Special Double Post: #50-31: Malcolm, McQueen, Mockumentaries, a Modern Mephistopholese, and Many ways to Make Brent Mad

I'm stepping up my production of these posts, because the AFI list comes out on the 20th of June, and because I'm going to Mumbai and Greece and don't know how often I'll be able to do this. So here's 20 more movies on my list. Most of which are too low for Brent (but I have to make room for Rocky's II-IV somewhere)

50 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers—I am not one of those who thinks that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the new Godfather. Then, why, you may ask, have I put one of the three above things like Taxi Driver and Ben-Hur? One simple reason my friend(s): the marriage of technology and classic film performances. Forget the hobbits, forget the sword fights and Orlando Bloom’s flowing silver hair. Focus on Andy Serkis, giving a performance as Gollum that is to modern audiences what Karloff in Frankenstein was to audiences in the 30s. Soulful, full body acting, using technology not as eye candy for fan boys, but as a way to make the story and the character come alive.

49 Lawrence of Arabia—If he was any prettier he would have been “Florence of Arabia.” If he was any better on screen…well…uh…there’s really no where to go in that sentence is there. He’s Peter O’Toole and he is the bomb, the desert commanding, camel riding, bomb. True, it’s long, really long, and (like Lean’s Doctor Zhivago before it) seems to present the simple truth that barren landscapes can be pretty, but life in them really sucks, but whenever you reach the point of, boredom, O’Toole turns up to keep you in your seat.

48 Psycho—This is probably going to engender one of those furious Brent postings. It’s not that Psycho’s bad. In fact it’s quite good. It’s just not everything that people build it up to be. If you go in expecting to be scared out of your wits, you’re going to yawn, especially given that so many people talk about it that unless you live in a cave you already know the shower scene is coming. It’s not a grand experiment or exploration of fear, it’s just a surprising, stunning, shocker. Alarming, but not incredible.

47 Wizard of Oz—I recently re-watched this with some friends of mine, and, between the shouts of “SHUT UP LION, I HATE YOU!!” I remembered what it is that makes this movie beloved: tradition. It’s really not that incredible, the songs aren’t so much catchy as they are part of the lexicon. The characters aren’t so much riveting as they are loved. It’s like a plate of cookies and a glass of milk at the end of the day. It’s great because every April, you’ll watch it and smell fabric softener and know that you’re family’s watching it too. It’s great because you’re comfortable and cozy when you curl up with the story

46 Waiting for Guffman—I’ve read three articles in the last week alone about the new “mockumentary” trend in comedy. It is not a new trend, it’s just been made popular by a TV show. The show is amusing, but not remotely close to this, one of the pinnacles of “mocku”comedy. Anyone who has ever been in, or seen Community Theater hurts when they see this movie. It’s a bittersweet look at people who genuinely believe they’re good, and who truly are terrible. It’s scary and sad to see, and at the same time, you end up loving the characters (which is more than you can say about almost any other “mockumentary”) because they’re more real than any of the others that follow.

45 Traffic—Like mockumentaries, complex, multi-national, multi-story-line dramas are the rage in movies today. That doesn’t mean they’re better than most, it also doesn’t mean they’re worst than most. And what makes Traffic the best of them all is that director Steven Soderbergh takes clearly separates the story lines to the point that you can distinguish everyone and then slowly slurs them together to show you how everyone is part of the same problem. He doesn’t sacrifice depth for breadth, the characters are developed, the performances are gripping and by humanizing all sides of the issue he makes it palatable regardless of politics.

44 Casablanca—Even I’m surprised I have this movie, this low. We all know the reasons it’s good (romance, passion, and pretty cinematography), so I’ll focus on why it’s not higher. Much as I hate to say it, it lags, it sags, and even a die-hard romantic like me rolls his eyes at Bergman’s doe-eyed innocence at the end. It’s much more fun to enjoy Peter Lorre and Claude Raines (“I am shocked, shocked to discover that there is gambling going on in this establishment!”), but sadly, there’s relatively little of him to go around.

43 The Searchers—I think I might have used the phrase “epic western” in connection with John Ford about 7 times already on this list. So here’s lucky number 8. It’s an epic western, sprawled out over the southwest. And, despite the long running time, despite the unfortunate undertones of mockery and racism towards Native Americans, the grandeur of the west and unflappable flawed focus of John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards makes this worth watching again and again.

42 In the Company of Men—Maybe it’s that I’m a theater geek and dig Niel LaBute. Maybe it’s that I’m a nice guy who always finishes last. Maybe it’s that I’m secretly psychotic, but this is the kind of movie that holds me and keeps me coming back. It’s the anti- Waiting for Guffman where you see people and smile and love them, here, you see people and feel sick, because they’re actually deplorable. The discordant jazz notes, the blaring, riotous anger and vitriol that colors the film and Aaron Eckhart as the most Mephistopholese-esque villain on film leaves you sick inside and with every stumble towards grace you think a little bit harder about what you’re doing to the world, and what it’s doing to you.

41 Shawshank Redemption—The kind of movie you forget, but can’t pass up if you find it on TV. It takes the standard prison movie formula and twists and turns it until you let your eyes ping-pong from Morgan Freeman to Tim Robbins again and again, relishing everything they say, and every turn of the plot that comes to be. The heartbreaking simplicity of characters and natural rhythm of the performances leaves you satisfied and guarantees that you’ll go back for more the next time you nearly flip by.

40 The Great Escape—More than the origin of British soccer chants, more than the embodiment of Steve McQueen’s cool (even in Nazi Germany), this is perhaps the most soulful action movie you could ever hope to see. (It’s also fun to see James Coburn and Charles Bronson do vague accents)Yes it has the standard, best friend dies in the arms of the hero moment, but it also has an original spin on revenge. Everyone loves Steve McQueen jumping over the fence, and coming back with a smile on his face, but James Garner resigning himself to fate, turning blithely away from his superior officer, turns the obvious into the remarkable.

39 The Gold Rush—The fifth and final Chaplin movie to make my list, the Gold Rush has everything that the other movies have (lovable tramp, nearly falling over the edge of something). But it has something else that separates it from the other movies (besides the fact that he eats his shoe). We get the Tramp’s soul more clearly than ever before, and his heartbreak when the girl (rather than being blind, or lost) rejects him out of hand (at least at first). Oh, and potatoes dancing. Funny.

38 West Side Story—Musicals tend to live or die by two things: the music (obviously) and how completely the actors captivate the audience. What’s great about West Side Story, besides the music that makes everyone either want to be a street thug or a senorita, is that while the leads are genuinely engaging, the supporting players hold us much more than anyone else. (“America” and “Officer Krupke” are a lot more fun than “Maria” and “I feel Pretty”)

37 Third Man—You know who you don’t hear much about? Joseph Cotten. Jedidiah from Citizen Kane (overshadowed by big ol’ Orson) and the lost in Austria pseudo-sluth in the Third Man. Unfortunately he’s once again overshadowed by Orson (even though Welles is on screen for only a few minutes), but he’s superb, distraught and raw when he’s pounding the cobblestones searching for Harry Lime. (Welles, is awesome too, but I felt like giving Cotten his due.)

36 The English Patient—Something of a return to the big sprawling movies in exotic locales with romance and intrigue, but the complication of the standard story line with flashbacks and side stories makes it compelling. The jumps to scenes in the present and examination of what love hath wrought in the lives of four people gives you a taste of deeper philosophy and thought without cramming it down your throat. And, as Brent will no doubt explain in more detail, erotic without giving in to simplistic pornographic detail.

35 Manhattan—Nobody does romance like Woody Allen. Which is a good thing because anyone who had a wife leave him for another woman, was dating a 17 year old and broke up his friend’s romance would need serious counseling. Much is made about Allen’s funny quips and quirks but this is really a movie made by the women, Streep, Keaton and most heartbreakingly of all: Muriel Hemingway in an honest, tender goodbye that makes Casablanca look bland by comparison.

34 The Lion in Winter—“By God I’m King, fifty and alive all at once.” Peter O’Toole is again the bomb, only this time, instead of camels and Omar Sharif he has Katherine Hepburn’s mania and Anthony Hopkins ready to cap a sword in his ass. It’s intrigue, violence, family, deception, and some of the wittiest wordplay on film. Made even stronger by the simplistic stupidity of Prince John’s, “you’re a stinker do you know that. You’re a stinker and you stink!”

33 Silence of the Lambs—Maybe it’s the more modern sensibility that makes this psycho story, more riveting than the Hitchock marvel. Or maybe it’s the fact that Lecter just looks more fierce in his mask than Bates does in his housecoat. Or maybe its that there are more compelling twists and stunning results here than the obvious ending everyone knows is coming in Psycho. Whatever the case, here is your modern treatise in fear.

32 Toy Story—It should be applauded for doing what Disney and family films in general haven’t done in decades: make something that kids giggle at with just enough reality and subtle wit that parents who have to pay for the kids, get a good laugh too. Some would criticize it for giving us Shark Tale and Robots but they miss the point. It has the eager adventurousness of kids in general with the search for identity that makes it relevant long after you’ve stopped playing with toys.

31 Malcolm X—A compelling, complete look at an American icon who is usually left to simplistic generalizations. Denzel and Spike make him complex and human, they give motive to his beliefs, and though they take a good deal of license adjusting his biography to suit the needs of their story, they make it both a film and forum for ideas, leaving the audience agape, and stunned as they hear Ossie Davis’ soothing basso into a deeper study of the man and his methods.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

#60-51: Streetcar! Silly Sensibilities and Suicide (of the Painless Vairety)

For the record: A post from me without alliteration, is like a post from Brent without a pointed barb about my inability to get a date. So, he's finally begun his list, but as we race towards the finish, note my nearly insurmountable lead that will vanish soon enough in the puff of poetic haze that is Brent McCafferty (and his trapezius muscles)

60 Streetcar Named Desire—I remember when I was a kid and people kept telling me that I wouldn’t know acting until I saw Brando. I couldn’t possibly want to be an actor until I knew what Marlon Brando had done. I started to think of him as highly overrated, and without a doubt, not nearly as great as he seemed. I was wrong. Brando rocks. And this movie is Brando rocking as only he can. Yes it’s Tennessee Williams, and yes it’s mocked by the Simpson’s to the point where any member of our generation will compare Brando to Ned Flanders (“can’t you hear me yell-a/You're puttin me through hell-a”), but the fact is, any man who can take a violent misogynist and turn him into a compelling, dominating character is, quite simply, the man.

59 Hotel Rwanda—Few movies in recent years have carried the emotional punch that Hotel Rwanda has. It’s no less an indictment of the forces of intolerance and hatred than of the people who simply switch the channel after watching another horrifying series of images on CNN. It’s a great film to watch to capture the spirit (both romantically and realistically) of modern day Africa. Most surprisingly of all though, is the fact that after so much has been made of African-American men winning the Academy Award in recent years the best performance of the bunch—Don Cheadle’s Paul Rusesabagina—didn’t get the award.

58 The Princess Bride—I first saw this movie when I was 4 years old. I immediately decided that when I grew up, I would be Fezzik. It’s something of a sore spot that I have grown up to look like Westly (I mean, who wants to be the hero when you can be a 7’7”, 300 pound French wrestler?). But the movie is still surprisingly captivating. And while it was originally intended to be a tongue in cheek comedy, it has become instead the fairy tale for my generation, a group of people, hoping against hope that their true love will simply say: “as you wish.”

57 M*A*S*H—Forget the TV show and all the silly antics that characters get into, this is a serious war-movie about a very silly time in America. The strains of “Suicide is Painless” are still enough to sooth people into a stupor and leave you all simply gawking at Altman touring the scene of a lively, yet conflicted camp. Donald Sutherland and Eliot Gould are hilarious, and at the same time, heartbreakingly real.

56 Sense & Sensibility—Okay, yes, I have a crush on Jane Austen. And if ever there was a film that enabled that crush, it is this one. The wit crackles on the screen, from the first moment Hugh Laurie (known to most as “House” and me as “Bertie Wooster”) bickers over just how little to give his sisters, until the triumphant wedding scene there’s a little more comedy here than the average teenage boy expects. (Though, not enough breasts to keep them interested if they haven’t read the book…or developed a crush on the author).

55 Saving Private Ryan—For all the adoration and glory heaped upon the men who died at D-Day, the opening moments of this movie with sand, surf, blood and bullets bring home the reality of the war with all the power of All Quiet on the Western Front and none of the talking. From then on it’s a great way to look at a culture and generation searching for salvation (and it manages to make you feel bad that Vin Diesel dies…which is worth at least 10 extra spots on my list).

54 Brokeback Mountain—Imagine you’re a Tawainese kid who likes movies. You start making movies. You make a comedy out of an 18th century novel in the English countryside. You make a gripping romance about cowboys in 1970’s Wyoming. You are friggin awesome. And you are Ang Lee. (You are also responsible for The Hulk but we’ll overlook that.) For all the chatter about groundbreaking this and heartbreaking that, this is really an accomplishment for Lee, who takes what could be just a joke made by middle-school boys and turns it into a drama about family, alienation and desperation set against a seemingly desolate backdrop that isn’t romantic at first, by grows to be home by the end of the film.

53 Being John Malkovich—This is the movie every teenage boy should see when they’re ready to discover what movies can actually be (beyond the action/date/dumb comedy genres). Trippy—to say the least—it also manages to redefine three actors as you’ve never seen them before. John Cusak’s a maniacal manipulator. Cameron Diaz is a homely nobody. John Malkovich is a little dull and not that dramatic. And in all of this, there’s enough humor, shock, and sex to leave you wondering who the hell you are.

52 The Incredibles—Out of every kid’s movie that’s come out in recent years very few can hold a candle to the majesty of Pixar. They know and apply the one thing that matters in movies (animated or otherwise): you don’t need flash, you don’t need big names, you need a story, and this movie has a great one. It’s not so much a superhero movie as much as it’s about coming of age…whether that age is 12, 17, or 45. It’s about accepting who you are, and balancing reality with fantasy (whether the reality is fantastic or not) and Jason Lee’s fanboy gone mad is maybe the best crazy scientist villain with a soul since Dr. Frankenstien.

51 City Lights—Brent, Brent, Brent…100? City Lights at 100? Debbie Does Dallas beats City Lights? Taxi Driver beats City Lights? I say on simplistic beauty and purity of romance alone City Lights far outstrips gratuitous sex and gratuitous violence…there, I said it, I’m a prude. (But the Jane Austen thing probably should have given that away).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

#70-61: Bond, Bad Boy Bogie, and Burt Bacharach

70 Chinatown—At some point Nicholson’s Private Eye becomes a little wearisome, a little too cool, a little too savvy, a little too put together to be the ideal flawed film noir hero. Fortunately, that’s also the moment that the story shifts on a dime and you couldn’t be more glued to your seat than if you accidently sat on a small village of milk duds.

69 Fantasia—Okay, yes, this is a very dorky selection…an uber-dorky selection…a mega-ultra-hyper dorky selection. But, for anyone who’s ever looked for an excuse to like classical music in the face of their Backstreet boy singing peers you have to like dancing crocodiles and hippos…I mean c’mon!!

68 Stagecoach—It’s as stellar a character study as any Robert Altman film, minus the hour long single shots and set entirely within a stagecoach. It’s not so much a western as it is a road movie in the old west. The characters are astounding: pure and desolute, heroes and ne’er-do-wells, and all manner of those in between. A fantastic example of John Ford’s eye for the majestic west.

67 Unforgiven—Eastwood kicks off his second career as a something more than an iconic film actor by presenting the truth behind the mythic iconic western figures. It explodes the legends that we’ve all come to adore and lauds truth, justice and the old American way.

66 Modern Times—A great movie for struggling artists afraid of letting go of their ideals and winding up in some dead end job. What’s most impressive and is still most fascinating about this classic Chaplin comedy is that it came out years after talkies had been around and is still very funny.

65 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—This set of ten seems to revolve a great deal around anti-heroes. And so it’s only fitting that these two make an appearance. Part of everyone’s vernacular, Butch and Sudance aren’t just good bad guys, they’re without adoubt the coolest guys ever even remotely associated with Burt Bacharach.

64 Treasure of the Sierra Madre—Bogie as a badass makes for a nice change of pace (it can get a little dreary seeing him up against the odds fighting for what’s right…it’s much nicer to see him up against the odds fighting for what’s wrong). But what’s most remarkable is watching his slow and steady descent into madness. What’s most remarkable to hear is the origin of the classic: “Badges…we don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!”

63 Goldfinger—The ultimate Bond movie. Nothing else has or will come close. An ultra-villain with witty repartee, killer gadgets a hardcore henchman and the most inappropriate Bond-girl name ever (honestly, how much would you like to hear people talking over that name during the intial film screening? It still makes my mother titter and she’s over 55) all are the perfect match for Sean’s perfect Bond.

62 Guess who’s Coming to Dinner?—A little treacle goes a long way. A lot of treacle nearly drowns out a good movie. But Poitier, Hepburna and Tracy make you forget all of that and just revel in the sight of such fine acting and such genuine emotion. Though you have to ask yourself at a certain point: “what happened to the girl?” And at another point you have to ask yourself: "who in the world thought Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac would be the right people to remake this movie?"

61 Double Indemnity—The deluxe thriller, with the flawed film noir protagonist Jack Nicholson only wishes he could be. It’s got conflict, despair, anger, betrayal and that’s before they even kill a guy. You can never watch the original Flubber again after you see just what Fred McMurry can really do.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

#80-71 "Plastics," Pop-Tarts and the President's Men

80 Doctor Z—Sprawling and at times suffocating in it’s grandeur it’s still a remarkably human epic. And that last sentence was so unbelievable pompus I’m about to gag myself with a spoon. (Notice, however, I’m not deleting it). The message of Dr. Zhivago: life in Russia sucks, but Omar Sharif is handsome.

79 All the Presidents Men—A gripping portrayal of power, persuasion, and passion to make everyone want to be a reporter (if only so we all have a chance to get that great Robert Redford hair). It's not glamorous, but it's wonderfully true.

78 Frankenstien—Not really scary any more, not really related to the Mary Shelly book at all, and not really all that compelling. But Karloff is a one man clinic on acting with your whole body and renders everything else meaningless.

77 Chicago—The cinematic equivalent of a pop tart. Looks great and full of a surprisingly rich center (including an active critique of the current state of American culture and a number of compelling characters {okay, John C. Reilly}), it doesn’t really last in your system, but invariably you go back for more.

76 Forrest Gump—I tend to have at least one sentimental and sap ridden film in each set of 10 I put together. This is that sentimental and sap-ridden film. Yes there’s a lot of needless weepiness, yes, there’s gratituitous use of the archival footage, but really, it’s a nice story of where we’ve been as a country and perhaps where we’re going.

75 Jungle Fever—Spike Lee’s family saga (or, at least the one people actually know as opposed to Crooklyn). Infidelity, loyalty, love in all its forms, and just plain ol’ American dysfunction for all. Yes, Wesley Snipes does seem to telegraph his lines, and Spike’s own character seems superfluous (outside of Do the Right Thing/She’s Gotta Have It, when wasn’t it?) but the dynamic between Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Samuel L. Jackson is superb. Really, though, this is Stevie Wonder’s movie, with an excellent score that makes even the slower parts of the movie, eminently rewatchable.

74 Bridge on the River—Though it lag’s during Guiness’ manic shifts in attitude towards the bridge it has a great amount of fervor and pride for not just Britan but for all the world. Plus, anytime William Holden beats the living daylights out of a man it’s a good day.

73 Graduate—The ideal coming of age movie. Ask any twenty something guy, we’ve all had a “plastics,” moment. (I was once told to consider going into the corporate world of the Discovery Channel Store.) On top of fine acting and a plot that most everyone can relate to, it does have perhaps the ultimate marriage of a scene and a song.

72 Shane—A nice coupling of romantic love for the west, and the glimmer of inspiration in a young boy’s eyes (you can almost hear his brain churning to the idea of “I wanna be a cowboy”) and a hero who knows that it’s not nearly as great as people would like to believe.

71 Star Wars—Once you permit yourself to disassociate this movie from the fan boys and droid haters that populate the world it’s a fun fairy tale, and the inspiration for more Pop-culture references than anyone knows what to do with. (I still sing “What a Wookie!” from Clerks when no one’s looking)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

#90-81: Heathcliffe, the Holy Grail, and (Ben)-Hur

90--Sound of Music
Mountaintops and Toblerone bars and hilarious science teaching co-workers are just a few of my favorite things about Austria. The Sound of Music makes that cut too, though the eerily adorable children make it a tad Stepfordish. Still, the sing-a-long factor and Julie Andrews make it a standard for snowy nights and fires and warm apple strudel.
89--A Place in the Sun
A stellar murder thriller taking the audience on a trip through the anxiety riddled mind of a desperate man. Shifting the tables on the audience, so often rooting for the coppers to catch that dirty rat, you instead suddenly understand the dirty rat’s predicament. Some part of you knows why he commits his crime and some part of you might have wanted to do the same thing. It’s as psychologically riveting as Crime and Punishment without the torture of all the Russian pronunciations.
88--Some Like it Hot
Again, contrary to what Brent says there is some humor in cross dressing comedies. No matter how many times the creators of modern offenders (Big Momma’s House) cite the classics as inspiration. Here the redeeming factor is not Marilyn Monroe (the female version of my anti-James Dean fixation), nor is it Tony Curtis (doing a lame Cary Grant impression). It’s Jack Lemmon. Only Jack Lemmon. Forever Jack Lemmon. And Billy Wilder
87--It Happened One Night
Say what you will about screwball comedy: it’s unrealistic, it’s repetitive, its overwrought zaniness can grate on your nerves after the one hour mark. But whatever you say don’t lump this film in with the movies that give the genre a bad name. Clark Gable starts a grand tradition of sensible men turned into blithering nincompoops by a beautiful woman. And as a sensible man who is a blithering nincompoop in the company of a beautiful woman, I greatly admire this performance.
86--Wuthering Heights
Out of the whole of Laurence Olivier’s career you’ve got to think that this is not the movie he would pick to be the most beloved for generations after he’s shuffled loose the mortal coil. But it is, Heathcliffe on the moors and an enduring romance that is to dorky English teachers what Pretty Woman is to America at large (only without the profanity and creepy George Costanza moments).
85--Taxi Driver
Every one of my posts contains one entry that’s guaranteed to make Brent’s blood pressure rise. This is that entry. There’s nothing wrong with Taxi Driver. It’s classic. It’s DeNiro and Scorcese at the top of their games. It’s chilling, yet human, haunting, yet heroic. So why is it at 85 and not 15? One word, four syllables: gratuitous. Do we really need all the blood, all the time at the porno theater, all the political subplot. We probably do. It just distracted me from everything else.
Epic. There were a lot of movies that worked towards this end before Ben-Hur, there have been a lot of movies that have tried to achieve the feat afterwards. None of them manage to pull it off quite like this one does. True, epic is often boring and confusing: (What his mom and sister are being thrown out of the house? *2 hours later* What? He has a mother and sister?) but the high moments of Ben-Hur are so great, so grand and inspiring that you can’t help but pull yourself to the edge of your seat. Witness the thousands of (failed) attempts to achieve the chariot race scene again, none of which matches the intensity of the original.
Ben-Hur was long with moments of incredible intensity. Amadeus is long with aching crescendos of personal introspection. Just the kind of movie that an overly-reflective guy like me would like. It’s not totally accurate, and three hours of Mozart in a movie is a tad gratuitous, but F. Murray Abraham is like a human chariot race. Hanging on to everyone who watches him and pulling them along for the ride.
82—Dances with Wolves
When it first came out it was beloved, then it was totally and utterly forgotten. It’s worth looking at again, not because Kevin Costner is a cinematic genius (he’s not), nor because the romance is stirring (it’s a little frigid) but just because it found a way to recapture the dramatic beauty of the Western, the rolling fields and plains and mountains and everything that made me proud to grow up Montanan, the sense of land and history and culture and pride, and Graham Greene just generally being awesome.
81—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Good, solid, fun. It’s all the best parts* of Star Wars, wise cracking Harrison Ford, and rip-roaring, swashbuckling adventure, with a dollop worth of rah-rah Americana in an effort to best the Nazis. AFI suggests Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that movie doesn’t have Sean Connery or the Hindenburg, making this movie much more list worthy.
*Ed. Note: By best parts of Star Wars we mean “best human parts of Star Wars” because clearly wookies would not have done well in the 1940s…or, maybe…

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bens #'s 100-91: Clyde, The Kid and Cukoo Kings

It's been a while since a post, largely because Brent and I were awaiting the introduction of wise new bloggers.

Turns out they're so wise they aren't joining us at all. So, abandoned by the only three readers we would have ever had, we're starting up 100-1 from the ground up.

My first ten are a strange brew, 30's, 50's and 70's, war movies/post war movies, shiftless criminal lowlifes and shiftless political lowlifes, heart warming family's and crossdressers galore!

With that, here are 10 movies that aren't the greatest (not by any means) but have something going for them that makes them special.

100--Bonnie & Clyde
Rather than building up the myth of history’s most famous bank robbing duo, this exposes their more sincere flaws. Insensitive, afraid, co-dependent, everything you don’t envision from the bland descriptors in books. Plus it features great performances from Beatty and Dunaway.

99--The Best Years of Our Lives
What makes this often sappy soldiers-come-home drama, worthy of a top 100 spot is the reality of it all. The romance of the army, shattered (before Vietnam) the return of heroes, quickly forgotten (before Gulf War I/II), Though the central love story rather stinks, Fredrich March and Myrna Loy (HELENA WOOH!) do have one of the great love scenes of all time: “How many times have I told you I hated you and believed it in my heart? How many times have you said you were sick and tired of me; that we were all washed up? How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?” Beautiful, and true, I think, I’ve never been married.

98--All the King’s Men
A political drama in an era when politicians were considered nigh untouchable. The dramatization of Huey Long’s life does two intersting things in equal measure. First, it makes you admire the idealism of the man, regardless of the tactics he uses to get them. And secondly, it openly confronts the viewer asking how you can approve of him with your votes.

97--The Kid
I heart Charlie Chaplin (as you’ll no doubt notice during the revelation of this list). This is the beginning of Chaplin’s real exploration of his Tramp character. Whereas most of the other movies are focused on getting the girl, this one’s focused on his fatherly instincts, and it’s extremely affecting (if not as funny)

96--King Kong
As close to an epic monster movie as you’re like to come to with the first real development of special effects in story telling. It can be forgiven the lame remakes, but what is so surprising is that the grandeur you can tell was inteded in the 30’s still resonates today.

95--Grapes of Wrath
As sincere and heartwarming as the novel it’s based on, this is a great American story (and I’m pretty sure that’s a phrase I’ll end up using about twenty times before this is over). What’s so stunning about this film though is that it pushes Tom Joad to the brink of iconic hero status, only to reassert his flawed humanity upon his exit. It’s not quite Steinbeck’s words or art but it is Henry Fonda which is close enough

Regardless of what Brent says, this is funny. Not so much Dustin Hoffman in drag, or talking about being in drag, but rather Dustin Hoffman himself. His overblown obsession with Love Canal, his inimitable sleaziness in picking up women, and in a perfect match, Bill Murray’s understated writer is the ultimate dead-pan counterpoint to Hoffman’s occassionally overwrought zaniness. A crappy synth-sound track nearly ruins it, but doesn’t.

The standard for post-Vietnam War movies. It takes many of the elements of The Best Years of our Lives and sets it in the time of war itself. We are confronted with the reality of humanity in war time, or rather, the lack of it. Painting with a broad brush, soldiers are either corrupt killers or disenchanted druggists, but in Charlie Sheen we have a measured lens for both worlds, reporting the facts and enabling a personal judgement on the world it portrays. 91--One

92--One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Though it seems more dated now, this is still an excellent exhibition of the madhouse, and madman Jack Nicholson’s methods. At turns charming, antagonistic, humane and anarchic, Nicholson’s McMurphy is superb. Best of all he has a host of wild men to play off of, each of whom brings their own quirks and habits to their role.

91--All Quiet on the Western Front
A wonderful combination of gritty battle reality and post-service after shock, all told from the German perspective. A humanizing look at the villanized victims not all together different from their counterparts in the opposite bunker.

(Next week 90-81, and potentially comments from people who have even less of a life than I do)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The following conversation was held one week ago in response to B. McC's response to my listing of Crash as one of my 5 movies that just missed the cut (in which he referred to both All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of our Lives as "unwatchable")

--E-mail from B. MacK "Unwatchable?"
The only thing that's unwatchable is your face...okay that insult sucks, but still.

I just saw your response to one of my posts, and rather than argue with a post of yours (because I can't think of anything to argue with) I'll defend my own selections.

1st--No, we didn't see Crash together. And I think you're wrong, I think many people will remember Crash in twenty years, not for being groundbreaking (and for the record, there really are only about 30 movies that are groundbreaking and good, not everything can be a new and exciting form), but, as I said, because we like to look back at where we have been in terms of racial relations, I don't think that Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is groundbreaking either, but what makes it stick is the subject matter, and great performances from three incredible actors, Crash doesn't have three great performances, to be fair it has about two above average ones (Dillon and Cheadle) and three or four middling to above middling ones (Ludacris (god that's embarrassing to write), Terrence Howard, Sandra Bullock).

2ndly-- "All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of Our Lives, are both unwatchable." What are you on? I love those movies. They aren't above 85 on my list, but they are on my list. I think they are, by far, among the best war movies I've seen. Platoon is better, yes, so is Saving Private Ryan and Patton is excellent. But at least All Quiet and the Best Years have some middle ground to claim, they aren't ham fisted odes to the glory of the soldier, they're often ham-fisted odes to the pains of the soldier, yes, but the moments of greatest tenderness (I'm thinking here of Myrna Loy's speech in "Best Years") more than make up for the overwrought sentimentality (and to be fair, when isn't Hollywood sentimentality overwrought?) (I'm mostly shocked because I would classify The Postman as unwatchable, I would classify Reindeer Games as unwatchable. All Quiet and Best Years of our Lives aren't superb, but they certainly aren't unwatchable)

Finally--As per your last question to me: "Hasn't Hollywood made 85 better than above average movies?" Yes, but not 85 better than above average movies that last. Do you think anyone in 10 years is going to remember In the Company of Men besides me? Do you think anyone does remember In the Company of Men besides me? Thank you for Smoking? Playing by Heart? 6 Degrees of Separation? Bamboozled (despite the craptastic Damon Wayans)? What's up Doc? There are these movies. These good, lovable, but in no way lasting movies. Perhaps my intial list was playing things a little too safely, but if one of the things we're thinking about is enjoyablity for the populace at large, I'm not so sure I've got a whole lot of movies to add on.

So perhaps I would do well to rephrase this tirade in terms of a question. At what point does a movie that you like, really, really like, become better than a movie that is embraced, adored and cited as a golden example of fine film making by 75% of the rest of the world. As a demonstration of this question Princess Bride V.s. Some Like it Hot: A movie we both love, versus a movie we both feel is vastly overrated. A movie that already has lasted 20 years among people who see it and love it versus a movie that has lasted 60 years on reputation alone. Any thoughts? (besides the fact that I'm a big tool who should be working on his lesson plans instead of opining on what is and is not Unwatchable?)

Chat transcript from the same morning--
9:54 AM me: See my e-mail punk?
9:55 AM Brent: yeah, i'm just starting to read it. this's the kind of fiery, hate-filled response we need on the actual blog
me: I aim to be fiery and hate-filled.
9:57 AM Brent: okay, just finished reading your email
(you should post it on the site, by the way, if only to show that we're reading and responding to this stuff.)
9:58 AM anyway, as for unwatchableness--i don't know, movies with egregious sentimentality just bore me to no end. i'd rather even watch out-and-out bad movies, i think.
9:59 AM me: Really?
Well...I can see that.
I suppose for me sentimentality isn't as much a fault as gratuitous lionizing.
10:00 AM Tears over cheers (I was going to right tears over flags, but I thought I should go for the rhyme).
Brent: but, yeah, i don't know about the list. i mean, how can i make a list that's the 100 greatest movies of all time and not include the 100 movies i like best? what would be the point of doing it any other way? any other way, you just go, "well, everyone seems to like 2001: a space odyssey and it's endured for forty years. let's put that around number three." you know?
10:01 AM i mean, this list HAS to be subjective--not based on reputation. and, yes, "tears over cheers" is much better. always go for the rhyme!
me: I can see that. I just wonder about my own taste in these sorts of things.
10:02 AM I like Playing by heart. A movie that is not enjoyed by anyone other than me and one ex-girlfriend. What the hell do you do with that?
Brent: i think you've got pretty great taste
i think i do too
and even if we don't, if we're not willing to stick up for movies we like better than other movies, what're we doing?
10:03 AM then every movie you watch, you're just going, "i like this, yeah, but i'd better see what roger ebert or joel siegel said about it before i can fully enjoy it."
10:04 AM me: Fair point.
I can agree to that in terms of list making
After all, it's not like this is being seen by anyone other than us, now is it?
Brent: right, exactly. i think two and ONLY two people are reading this blog
10:06 AM i think the reason that critics' lists are useful is that they give you a starting point. if 98 percent of critics on rotten tomatoes like a movie, you at least know that movie probably won't suck. and, with very few exceptions, if a movie made afi's list of the 400 greatest american movies, you know it probably won't suck either.
10:07 AM (i will concede, as long as we're talking about the blog, that "all quiet on the western front" isn't unwatchable. long stretches of it are actually pretty great
10:08 AM i couldn't get through "the best years of our lives," though, i really couldn't
me: You just don't know the value of Myrna Loy do you?
Just fast forward through the stuff with young people.
Brent: no, i do, i do. and i know she's from montana and all that stuff.
me: It's all about Myrna and Fred Marsch.
Brent: it's just that i had to sift through so much nonsense to get to her
10:09 AM me: Fast forward, it's like reading the action of Scarlett Letter and nothing about "the custom's house."
Brent: i also watched it right around the time i'd watched both "mrs. miniver" and "how green was my valley," so i was feeling pretty pessimistic about the film industry as a whole
me: That would do it to you, yeah.
Give it another try and avoid the younguns.
10:10 AM Brent: have you seen those movies? now those movies, those movies are unbearable
me: I think I made it through 10 minutes of How Green was My Valley.
That was enough.
Brent: i will. i'll give it another try. that's how much faith i have in your putatively bad taste
me: I've got to go teach "To the Virgins is to make much of Time"
Thank you for trusting my putatively bad taste.
Brent: sounds hot
me: It's nice to know you'v egot friends.
10:11 AM Brent: i wish i could teach my class about virgins
me: I'm pretty sure my teaching will involve surviving the gales of giggles from 11th grade boys.
But you don't have any virgins left is that what you're saying?
Brent: precisely
me: I will include more of my favorites and less of the stuff I grudgingly let on.
But just know that it will include a Jason Lee movie.
10:12 AM Brent: that's totally cool. i'll have some dubious stuff, too, plenty of it
if they were american, i'd probably include three pink panthers
me: I've got the Lion in Winter based on Katherine Hepburn alone.
Brent: i've never seen it all the way through
10:13 AM just bits here and there
me: Peter O'Toole baby! Peter O'Toole.

And on that note...Peter O'Toole to all y'all fools.

The Rube

Sunday, February 18, 2007



5 & 5

5 Near Misses

Fight Club--If there were a college-guy-pseudo-philosophical-film-institute out there, you’d be looking at a shoe-in for the top ten. Dark, haunting, with stellar performances from Ed Norton and Brad Pitt it is a fascinating look at the seriously scary undercurrent of violence in young men today.

Crash--It’s not a great film, nothing that waffles as ridiculously as this film does can be, but it’s more than a morality tale about racism. It’s a reflection of contemporary culture that may be as relevant in the future as Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? are now (though with much less nuance and groundbreaking film techniques).

From Here to Eternity-- Two great love stories and Frank Sinatra in the arch-type forming romantic-comedy-best-friend role are nice. But for god’s sake, did you really need three hours?

Groundhog Day--A touch of slapstick, a bit of black comedy, a lot of witty dialogue and Bill Murray in tour de force form. Best of all, it keeps a touch of reality, he still snarks at the people he helps. Only Andy McDowell’s woodiness stops it from real greatness.

Mutiny on the Bounty--Heavy handed, sure. But if you can watch this without getting pumped up for Clark Gable, you’re without a pulse. If you can explain why all Polynesians are white and speak in perfect English, you’re a genius.

Honorable Mention
Good night and Good Luck--a nice way to make a political statement (see Crucible, The)
The Usual Suspects--a knockout thriller with great Kevin Spacy
Dogma-A neat little morality play disguised as bathroom humor (or vice versa)
Memento-A nifty trick, a thrilling who dunnit, and tattoos apleanty.
5 Gladly Omitted
Rebel Without a Cause--One of my least favorite things about movies: the undying adoration of James Dean. This is held up as his masterpiece. But he’s not the title character, and what’s more he’s so freaking whiny even as a teenager I wanted to smack him around.
Duck Soup--Perhaps it was funny its day, today the plot is ridiculously disjointed, the one-liners come off as surreal, and some of the jokes are flat out racist.

Giant--If you’re going to make a 3 hour long movie about life on a Texas oil ranch, you should have some compelling personalities. Instead this features: Rock Hudson, moaning, Elizabeth Taylor in her standard, strong, yet sensitive debutante role, and James Dean doing the only thing he ever does in movies: pout.
Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind--A masterpiece of special effects magic? There for two sequences with the spaceship, and they aren’t even impressive compared to others of the day. (The best part for me was when Richard Dryffeus’ wife left him, summarizing my feelings about the movie as a whole.)
2001: A Space Odyssey--As Brent has said, “I think you have to watch it on meth or LSD or something.” That something might just be crap. The whole move is crap. Crap acting. Crap story. Crap metaphysical bullshit at the end. Crap.
Dishonorable Mention
Philadelphia Story--okay concept, but, it’s crap,
Grease--pop crap.
Something about Mary--disgusting crap.
Last Tango in Paris--disgusting sexual crap.

The ground rules

Each member of this site will be trying (as best as they can during hours they should be spending studying, teaching or working) to set forward a list of the 100 best movies they know.
They were each given the list of 400 for review, and have the option of including up to 10 personal selections that AFI forgot in order to make room for Grease.

But rather than starting off with the full list, we're going to start with 10 movies that didn't make the grade. 5 we love, and 5 we absolutely can't stand.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The Gang

For those who don't know, here's a little guide to the people who will be posting in this space in the coming days/weeks/months/nanoseconds.

"Edemame"--The ex-striker turned Lawyer-to-be has a long track record of performance both on the pitch, in the classroom, and on the stage. Unfortunately, this blog is neither the pitch, nor the classroom, nor the stage, and his writing is likely to be peppered with both angry shouts at drunken Bears fans near his Chicago apartment and Aaron Sorkin references.
("It was oregano Dave, it was a dime bag worth of oregano.")

"Petercrouchgeneticanomolies"--Months ahead of his time, the poet/critic spotted what no one else did years before last year's world cup: "Peter Crouch really isn't very good" (dorm room conversation with a rabid Liverpool fan, 2005). He has already spotted a number of things about this year's AFI list: "These people are idiots." (A reference to the inclusion of Spider-Man 2 and There's Something About Mary in the 400 potential nominees) Count on more sterling insight in the time ahead.

"Likethesolid"--After being sequestered in such faraway places as Martinique; Hall, Montana; and San Francisco, California, The solidest of solids has emerged from hiding to dispense her wisdom upon the world. Ever the globetrotter, her comments will come interspersed with insights into the world around her and pleas for people to buy tours from her San Francisco educational vacation company.

"Montannie 37"--Straight out of the mean streets of Potomac, MT and Mussoorie, INDIA (no, cool abbreviation to be had there) "Montannie 37" knows a thing or two about movies. They are entertaining and compressed into frames of film. She actually knows more than that, but will need to educate young minds about the wonders of Beethoven, Bach and Brahms before focusing on the wonders of Sandler, Spade and Schnieder.

"AceCClax6"--The first newbie to post, AceCClax6 is a bad mother...oh, I'm sorry I'll shut my mouth. In the wake of yesterday's Super Bowl you may wish to revisit his post regarding the pointlessness of life around Chicago Bears fans (or maybe not, if you're a Chicago Bears fan/player/owner/cheerleader/hot dog vendor, see the January Posts under: "DAAAA Bears: Aw, who cares.") An aspiring actor, he is sure to include critiques of the fine work turned in by the luminaries on his 100 list, and more than a few comments about how even Bette Davis could be a better quarterback than Rex Grossman.

"Ben MacKenzie"--One heck of a pseudiddlyudonym

Now that you know our players, we hope you enjoy our game/pointless blatherings into the ether.


A complete waste of time

No, not my personal life. Below is the American Film Institute's latest foray into MEGA LISTS! Ten years after their first "100 Years" Series, they are back with 400 more candidates for the new list (much like the British Film Institute).

Given my natural predilection for listing things, I am reviving the long dormant Montana Hooligans' Debate Center for a good ol' fashioned throw down over your 100 favorite movies of all time (as selected from the list below plus a maximum of 10 movies of your own choosing). Your old favorites, "edemame" and "petercrouchgeneticanomalies," are back and I'll be introducing the rest of the crew very soon. So stay tuned for something that matters not at all.

To see the list in it's entirety with synopses and featured casts, click on the AFI link below and sign up to be an AFI member. Or be a lazy moog, and read the list I painstakingly copied out for you here.

More soon.

--The Rube

P.s. I apologize in advance for the length of the post below, try as I might I could not put more than one title on a line.

The List

Ace in the Hole
Adams Rib
Adventures of Robin Hood, The
Affair to Remember, An
African Queen, The
All About Eve
All Quiet on the Western Front
All That Jazz
All the King's Men
All the President's Men
American Beauty
American Graffitti
American in Paris, An
Annie Hall
Apartment, The
Apocolypse Now
Appollo 13
As Good as it Gets
Atlantic City
Austin Powers
Aviator, The
Awful Truth, The
Back to the Future
Bandwagon, The
Bank Dick, The
Beau Geste
Beautiful Mind, A
Beauty and the Beast
Being John Malkovich
Ben-Hur (26)
Ben-Hur (59)
Best Years of our Lives, The
Big Chill, The
Big Parade, The
Big Sleep, The
Birds, The
Birth of a Nation, The
Blackboard Jungle
Blade Runner
Blazing Saddles
Blue Velvet
Bonnie & Clyde
Boogie Nights
Born on the Fourth of July
Boyz in the Hood
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast Club, The
Breaking Away
Bridge on the River Kwai
Bringing up Baby
Broadcast News
Brokeback Mountain
Broken Blossoms
Bull Durham
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Cabin in the Sky
Cat Ballou
Cat People
Chariots of Fire
Cheat, The
Christmas Story, A
Citizen Kane
City Lights
Clockwork Orange, A
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Color Purple, The
Coming Home
Conversation, The
Cool Hand Luke
Crowd, The
Dances with Wolves
Day the Earth Stood Still, The
Days of Heaven
Days of Wine and Roses
Dead Poets Society
Deer Hunter, The
Defiant Ones, The
Destry Rides Again
Diary of Anne Frank, The
Die Hard
Dirty Harry
Do the Right Thing
Doctor Zhivago
Dog Day Afternoon
Double Indemnity
Dr. Strangelove
Driving Miss Daisy
Duck Soup
Easy Rider
Empire Strikes Back, The
English Patient, The
Erin Brokovich
Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind
Exorcist, The
Face in the Crowd, A
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Fatal Attraction
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
Finding Nemo
Five Easy Pieces
Force of Evil
Forrest Gump
42nd Street
Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse, The
French Connection, The
Freshman, The
From Here to Eternity
Funny Girl
General, The
Gentleman's Agreement
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Godfather, The
Godfather Part II, The
Going My Way
Gold Rush, The
Gone with the Wind
Good Night, and Good Luck
Good Will Hunting
Goodbye Mr. Chips
Graduate, The
Grand Hotel
Grapes of Wrath, The
Great Dictator, The
Great Escape, The
Groundhog Day
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Gun Crazy
Gunga Din
Harold and Maude
Harry Potter (Azkaban)
High Noon
His Girl Friday
Hotel Rwanda
Hours, The
How Green Was My Valley
Hustler, The
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
In the Heat of the Night
Insider, The
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
It Happened One Night
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
It's a Wondeful Life
Jazz Singer, The
Jerry Maguire
Jurassic Park
Kid, The
Killing Fields, The
King and I, the
King Kong
King of Comedy, The
Kramer Vs. Kramer
L.A. Confidential
Lady Eve, The
Last Emperor, The
Last Picture Show, The
Last Tango in Paris
Lawrence of Arabia
Life of Emile Zola
Lion King, The
Little Caesar
Little Foxes
Longest Day, The
LOTR (Fellowship)
LOTR (Towers)
LOTR (Return)
Lost Horizon
Lost in Translation
Lost Weekend, The
Love Story
Magnificent Ambersons, The
Maltese Falcon, The
Man for all Seasons, A
Man who Would be King, The
Manchurian Candiate, The
Mary Poppins
Matrix, The
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Mean Streets
Meet Me in St. Louis
Midnight Cowboy
Mildred Pierce
Million Dollar Baby
Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The
Miracle on 34th Street
Modern Times
Moulin Rouge!
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Mrs. Miniver
Mutiny on the Bounty
My Darling Clementine
My Fair Lady
My Man Godfrey
Mystic River
National Lampoon's Animal House
Night at the Opera, A
Night of the Hunter, The
Night of the Living Dead
North By Northwest
Now, Voyager
On Golden Pond
On the Waterfront
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ordinary People
Out of Africa
Out of the Past
Outlaw Josey Wales, The
Ox-Bow Incident, The
Paths of Glory
Phantom of the Opera, The
Philadelphia Story, The
Pillow Talk
Pirates of the Caribbean
Place in the Sun, A
Planet of the Apes, The
Poor Little Rich Girl, The
Porgy and Bess
Postman Always Rings Twice, The
Pride of the Yankees, The
Producers, The
Public Enemy, The
Pulp Fiction
Queen Christina
Quiet Man, The
Raging Bull
Raiders of the Lost Ark, The
Rain Man
Raisin in the Sun, A
Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
Requiem for a Dream
Return of the Secaucus 7
Right Stuff, The
Risky Business
Road to Morocco
Rocky Horror Picture Show, The
Roman Holiday
Rosemary's Baby
Safety Last
Saturday Night Fever
Saving Private Ryan
Scarface: The Shame of a Nation
Scarlet Empress, The
Schindler's List
Searchers, The
Sense and Sensibility
Sergeant York
Sex, Lies and Videotape
Shadow of a Doubt
Shakespeare in Love
Shawshank Redemption, The
She Done Him Wrong
Sherlock Jr.
Shining, The
Silence of the Lambs, The
Singin' in the Rain
Sixth Sense, The
Sleepless in Seattle
Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
Some Like it Hot
Sons of the Desert
Sophie's Choice
Sound of Music, The
Spider-Man 2
Spleandor in the Grass
Stalag 17
Stand By Me
Star is Born, A
Star Wars
Sting, The
Stormy Weather
Stranger than Paradise
Strangers on a Train
Streetcar Named Desire, A
Sullivan's Travels
Sunset Blvd.
Sweet Smell of Success, The
Swing Time
Taxi Driver
Ten Commandments, The
Terminator 2
Terms of Endearment
Thelma & Louise
There's Something About Mary
Thief of Bagdad, The
Thin Man, The
Thing from Another World, The
Third Man, The
This is Spinal Tap
Three Kings
To Be or Not To Be
To Have and Have Not
To Kill a Mockingbird
Top Hat
Touch of Evil
Toy Story
Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The
Trouble in Paradise
12 Angry Men
Twelve O'Clock High
2001: A Space Odyssey
Usual Suspects, The
Way We Were, The
West Side Story
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
When Harry Met Sally…
White Heat
Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?
Wild Bunch, The
Winchester '73
Wind, The
Wizard of Oz, The
Woman of the Year
Woman Under the Influence, A
Wuthering Heights
Yankee Doodle Dandy
You Can't Take it With You
Young Frankenstein
Young Mr. Lincoln