Thursday, December 30, 2010

189. Toy Story 2 (1999)


-Look Jessie, I know you hate me for leaving, but I have to go back. I'm still Andy's toy. Well, if you knew him, you'd understand. See, Andy's...
-Let me guess. Andy's a real special kid, and to him, you're his buddy, his best friend, and when Andy plays with you it's like... even though you're not moving, you feel like you're alive, because that's how he sees you.
-How did you know that?
-Because Emily was just the same. She was my whole world.

If there is one thing that Abigail has taught me it is that good movies have no age range. A child may not have the intelligence necessary to appreciate a movie targeted to adults, but the reverse is certainly not true. A good movie targeted to children can be enjoyed by everyone. It is a cop-out when someone says things like "that movie was pretty good for a kid's movie". Pixar refused to buy into the idea that animated movies targeted to children needed to be dumbed down, sugar-coated, or simplified. The studio had honed its craft with the original "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life", but really cut loose with this one. The action, drama, and even a little romance in this movie stack up against the best live-action serious "Oscar-bait" movies around. If you don't laugh when Woody is riding Buster and tells him to "walk casual"; If you don't cry when Jessie tells her story of her long lost owner; and if you don't cheer when Woody and Jessie swing down onto Bullseye by Woody's pullstring with Buzz at the reins.... Then you just don't like movies...

Obligatory Oscar rant: Phil Collin's "You'll Be in My Heart" from "Tarzan" won best song over Randy Newman's song written for Sarah McLachlan, "When She Loved Me"... This is a travesty... I still get upset about this... I'm gonna go watch this scene and cry now...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

188. But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)


-I'm not supposed to like you.
-I wanna do that again.

This movie was probably about five years ahead of its time. A young girl is sent away to "straight camp" because her parents suspect that she is a lesbian. This, of course, backfires and she ends up learning more about herself than she ever would have in her straightlaced home. RuPaul (out of drag) shines as one of the "ex-gay" camp counselors.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

187. Go (1999)


If you were any less black, you'd be clear.

"Go" is "Pulp Fiction" for teenagers. A cool, raunchy tale of drugs debauchery accompanied by awesome music and told from a few different perspectives. It's kinda been forgotten over the years, so thank me when you check it out (or rediscover it).

Monday, December 27, 2010

186. The Hurricane (1999)


Hate put me in prison. Love's gonna bust me out.

I try to avoid hyperbole in this blog, but I wouldn't be saying that if I wasn't about to drop a huge bomb of hyperbole all over the place. Here goes: Denzel Washington's performance as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter is the best performance by an actor in a movie... ever... Others have portrayed historical figures and others have portrayed people as they have aged through their entire lives, but none with the honesty and intensity that Washington brings to this role. This is a wonderful story, but the performance of the title role bumps it from average to extraordinary.

As I've said before, I get really worked up over the Academy Awards. I will never forgive Kevin Spacey for stealing Denzel's Oscar. I know it wasn't his fault that more people voted for him, I know Denzel got his only a couple of years later (for a much less ground-breaking role in "Training Day" mind you), and I know that "American Beauty" was the movie of choice from 1999, but it just doesn't make it right...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

185. Ride with the Devil (1999)


Don't think you are a good man. The thought will spoil you.

This is a criminally underseen movie from genius filmmaker Ang Lee. Tobey McGuire, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Skeet Ulrich, Jonathan Brandis (RIP), James Caviezel, and Jeffrey Wright head an amazing ensemble cast that tells the little-learned story of the western front of the Civil War. In U.S. History, we spent about fifteen minutes on Lawrence, Kansas, but this movie makes the story real. Lee uses one of my favorite "war movie" techniques by making the story extremely personal. At the same time the themes of racism, classism, and southern pride are easily captured through the eyes of very realistic fictional characters. One of the most important aspects of this movie is the dedication to authentic dress and language. The characters speak with a different rhythym that transports the viewer to the middle of the nineteenth century. This movie also contains the only acting role from singer/songwriter Jewel.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

184. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)


Dreams do come true. I always dreamed of being the mother of a little girl. A nice, warm house, a pretty daughter. Even if my husband was no good... I would accept dire poverty as long as I had my child.

This is the story of Gin (a down-on-his-luck alcoholic), Hana (a cast aside drag queen who speaks the quote above), and Miyuki (a young girl who has run away from home). These three may not seem appropriate to serve as the base of a "Christmas" movie (and the movie certainly doesn't advertise itself as such), but the story offers up extremely honest and touching Christian ideals. The movie tells of the epic Christmas Eve adventure of the three troubled homeless souls and their discovery of an abandoned baby. They name the baby Kiyoko, which means pure child. Along the way they help begin to understand and show others the power of love, compassion, and family.

Unlike yesterday, I wouldn't really recommend this as a Christmas movie for everyone. Still, if you are open-minded, don't mind Japanese with English subtitles, and want to see one of the greatest anime movies of all time, check this out now. On a side note, this was one of only three movies written and directed by Satoshi Kon (a fourth is to be released in 2011). Although working as an animator all of his life, he was only recently discovering his role as writer and director. His other movies, "Millenium Actress" and "Paprika" showed an enormous amount of talent and promise. Satoshi Kon died this year of pancreatic cancer at the age of 46. The collective consciousness of our world today seems to be that everyone is going to live until they are 100 (or longer), but this is a complete lie. No one knows how long they have, so take advantage of every second. Hug your mama, tell your kids you love them, and, like Satoshi Kon, go make some beautiful art.

Friday, December 24, 2010

183. Millions (2004)


-What was your miracle?
-Don't you know? It was you.

So I'm going a little out of order today and tomorrow for a couple of completely unconventional Christmas movies. The first is my favorite movie from 2004. The film follows two young brothers who have just dealt with their mother's death discovering a bag filled with one million pounds (it's in Britain if you didn't guess). Their exploits with this money is what gives the film its plot, but the element of fantasy added by director Danny Boyle is what makes it absolutely amazing. The younger of the two brothers is constantly in contact with and obsessed with Saints (halo and all). These "visions" serve to guide and protect him as he struggles with the ethical implications of dealing with one million pounds that he believes came directly from God.

I know I've said this before (and I will surely say it again), but drop what you are doing and see this movie immediately. It is criminally underseen. Go ahead, put down the "Grown Ups" dvd, turn off the Lifetime network, (for goodness sake) forego this years veiwing of "A Christmas Story", and watch this movie!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

182. Varsity Blues (1999)


In America, we have laws. Laws against killing, laws against stealing. And it is just accepted that as a member of American society, you will live by these laws. In West Canaan, Texas, there is another society which has it's own laws. Football is a way of life.

It may seem that I've been going through a streak here where my movies might not really measure up to some of the "classics", but that's why this is MY 365 favorite movies. In 1999, I turned eighteen and this movie is one of the best movies of all time when you are eighteen. Football, parties, sex ed, strip clubs, a pig named bacon, pep rallies, overacting, stealing polic cars filled with naked sophomores, and one very famous whipped cream bikini. What else could you possibly want from a movie???

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

181. The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)


I don't think. I leave that to God. I'm nothing in all this, I'm just the Messenger.

Luc Besson directs one of the most riveting historical war stories of all time with this take on the tale of Joan of Arc. There is just a smidgen of fantasy added to the otherwise hyperrealistic tale to allow the viewer to gain some insight on what might have driven the young lady to lead her fellow countrymen in war. Milla Jovovich (as she did in "The Fifth Element") does a flawless job portraying a character filled to the brim with wide-eyed innocent (oftentimes naive) determination. I've always been surprised that this movie never got more attention.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

180. Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)


I know you'll think this is crazy, but all I want to do is hold you, and I think that if you'll let me do that just for a few seconds, I can walk away, and never speak to you again.

I know this is just another sappy story of forbidden love. But this is MY list and this is the first sappy story of forbidden love that I shared at the theater with Angie. It was probably our third or fourth date, and, as usual, I was really early for the movie. So early, in fact, that we had time to hit the Baskin Robbins around the corner for some ice cream beforehand (the movie was playing at The Buccaneer for all of you Greenville natives, may it rest in peace). Angie offered me some of her ice cream to which I gladly accepted, but instead of allowing me a taste she playfully smushed it into my nose. I have been completely perplexed, intrigued, and in love with her ever since... The movie was pretty good too.

179. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999)


Remember what the MPAA says; Horrific, Deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don't say any naughty woids! That's what this war is all about!

Here begins a streak of nineteen movies from the year 1999. Maybe it says more about me than the movies, but this is my favorite year in movie history. That being said, it will probably go down as my favorite year in general considering I graduated high school, met Angie, started college, met Skinny Jeff, and hung out a lot with Steven, Paul, Reverend, and Brian.

South Park has been consistently the smartest, most cutting edge show for more than a decade on television. It's quick turnover time allows it to make fun of events that were in the news only a couple of weeks prior. For the movie, Trey Parker and Matt Stone knew an R-rated cartoon with third-grade leading men would be controversial so they enacted an ingenious preemptive strike: They made the movie about an overreaction to children seeing an R-rated movie (Terrance & Phillip's "#$$'s of fire"). In this way, they engaged their critics during the movie instead of in press releases afterwards. Pure, unadulterated genius (even if you don't like it).

Monday, December 20, 2010

178. The Big Lebowski (1998)


-[holding up a bowling ball] What the %*$# is this?
-Obviously you're not a golfer.

The Coen Brothers' masterpiece, Jeff Bridges' defining performance, film noir redefined for Generation X, and probably the most rewatchable movie of all time. What can be said? The Dude abides.

177. Can't Hardly Wait (1998)


All right this is it. It is finally time for Kenny Fisher to become... da man. Now I've done my laps, and all ten finalists are present and accounted for. Ten lovely ladies, yo. Each one at my disposal. Ten willing and able tour guides into the theme park of love. But who will it be? Which of you gorgeous ten will be the lucky one?

The '50s had "Grease", the '60s, "American Graffiti", the '70s had "Dazed and Confused", the '80s, "The Breakfast Club", and the '90s had "Can't Hardly Wait". That may be a little presumptuous to list it among those classics, but, for me, it was the most definitive. It was released during the summer before my senior year of high school and was filled with a soundtrack of exactly the music that I was pumping in the Firebird (Eve 6, Smashmouth, Creed, Sneaker Pimps, Busta Rhymes, G Love and Special Sauce, Third Eye Blind, 311, Sublime, and Blink 182). The movie is about the house party the night after graduation. Preston only wants to finally deliver his message of undying love to the most popular girl at school Amanda. Amanda has just been dumped by her long-time boyfriend, the most popular guy at school, Mike. William is the leader of the geeks who seek to take the ultimate revenge on Mike. Kenny is a wanna-be who is packing a "love-kit" so that he can get lucky at the party. And Denise just doesn't want to be around these idiots any more. One of the coolest things is that the characters are introduced with title cards that list their GPA, school activities, and favorite quote.

This movie is also pretty important for introducing a plethora of actors and actresses who would enjoy many levels of success over the next decade. You may not have ever heard of some of these guys, but you definitely would recognize them: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Seth Green, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Freddie Rodriguez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Breckin Meyer, Donald Faison, Jamie Pressley, Jason Segal, Eric Balfour, Selma Blair, Jenna Elfman, Mellisa Joan Hart, Jerry O'Connell. Wow, I was even impressed making that list!

Friday, December 17, 2010

176. The Opposite of Sex (1998)


-I'm bisexual.
-Puh-lease! I went to a bar mitzvah once. That doesn't make me Jewish.

Christina Ricci went pretty quickly from playing tween roles in "The Addams' Family" and "Casper" to portraying drug addicts and prostitutes in indie films. In this film she seduces her brother's male lover, reveals that she is pregnant, runs away with the guy, only to reveal that he may not be the father. This film is Don Roos' directorial debut and he has only directed three films since (one of which will show up in a couple of months on the blog).

175. Pleasantville (1998)


I know you miss her, I mean, you told me you did. But maybe it's not just the cooking or the cleaning that you miss. Maybe it's something else. Maybe you can't even describe it. Maybe you only know it when it's gone. Maybe it's like there's a whole piece of you that's missing, too. Look at her, Dad. Doesn't she look pretty like that? Doesn't she look just as beautiful as the first time you met her? Do you really want her back the way she was? Doesn't she look wonderful? Now, don't you wish you could tell her that?

Probably one of the most underrated movies of all time. It is really sad that this movie has been relatively forgotten over the past decade. A movie that is not afraid to say that life's beauty is in it's imperfections, and that the rosy-colored visions of when everything was right are just that, visions and nothing more. If you missed this one, I seriously recommend this movie for everyone over the age of 13.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

174. Blade (1998)


Some *#&@(*##*@ers are always trying to ice-skate uphill.

Let me begin by saying that if you like the "Twilight" saga, then I must ask which part? If you like the whiny high-school "I love him, but he's a vampire" drama, then you would much better served watching the first few seasons of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". If you like the vampire-fighting action (what very little of it there is), then let me introduce you to Mr. Snipes. I don't really care that pretty much everyone in the world disagrees with me, but I truly think that this is the best vampire movie of all time. Wesley Snipes is so, so cool as the daywalking half-breed, Kris Kristofferson has no problem channeling Obi-Wan as he plays the role of the wise sage, and Stephen Dorff pulls off the emo vampire villian long before the term was even popular.

Just to give you a little taste. Near the climax of the film, the vampires have captured Blade and a vampire lackey (who Blade had previously tortured) has stolen his trademarked sunglasses. Blade escapes from his confinement and finds the lackey. As the vampire begins to attempt to fight, Blade smoothly dispatches him by decapitation and retrieves his sunglasses before they can hit the ground. The fight scenes in this film really are some of the best this side of "The Matrix".

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

173. A Bug's Life (1998)


Francis, you're making the maggots cry.

Pixar's second movie continues takes computer animation to levels never though imaginable and features a really cute story along the way. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't seen it.

Also, this movie has recently become my favorite DVD of all time. Abby has inherited my love of movies and pretty much loves the entire Pixar canon plus a few Disney classics. Anyone who has ever been around 2-year-olds knows that sometimes they have a little problem with patience. This is a real problem with most of her favorite movies (especially the new blu-rays) because they force you to at least fast-forward through all kinds of warnings, commercials, and trailers. The "A Bug's Life" dvd slides into the dvd player and immediately goes to the disc menu. Here you can choose to play the movie with ONE PRESS OF THE REMOTE! I understand why trailers and the like are on dvds, but there has to be a feature where you only get forced to watch them once. I would like to issue a giant thank you to the technicians behind the "A Bug's Life" dvd!

Monday, December 13, 2010

172. Elizabeth (1998)


I am not your Elizabeth. I am no man's Elizabeth. And if you think to rule, you are mistaken. I will have one mistress here... and no master.

When I wrote about "Shakespeare in Love", I spoke about how I was so pleased when it defeated heavily favored "Saving Private Ryan" for the best picture Oscar. This was all the sweeter because previously in the evening the Academy had gotten it completely wrong with their actresses. Not only did Cate Blanchett lose to Gwyneth Paltrow for leading actress, but, as an absolute slap in the face, the great Judi Dench won for supporting actress for portraying Queen Elizabeth I (a role conquered infinitely greater by Blanchett). Even though I love this movie and she is surrounded by an amazing cast, this movie is all about what is probably the single greatest female acting performance in my lifetime. Cate Blanchett captures the virgin Queen with such sincerity and realism that I picture her when I think of the Queen.

On a side note, Joseph Fiennes and Geoffrey Rush have major roles in this film as well as "Shakespeare in Love" proving that studios have contractual obligations to cast them if they are making a film about Elizabethan England.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

171. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1998)


I don't think of myself as a hero. No, only dead people are heroes.

If you have ever doubted a movie because it's "just a documentary", then you should start with documentaries from Werner Herzog. Herzog is one of the few filmmakers who makes docs, feature films, and television shows. He also does it in quite a few different languages. I admit, I have seen nowhere near his entire catalog, but I also have never seen anything from him that I didn't love.

This film is about Dieter Dengler, a German-born U.S. immigrant who joined the army during the Vietnam War because of his passion for flying. After he survived his plane crash landing, he was captured, held in a tortuous P.O.W. camp, escaped and lived in the jungle before a long-awaited rescue. This movie focuses not on Dieter's miraculous story (for that check out Herzog's film "Rescue Dawn"), but on his story since his rescue. Herzog has the uncanny ability to get people to talk about the deepest, darkest portions of their soul and, therefore, make some of the best documentaries of all time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

170. The Newton Boys (1998)


This is a hell of a way to make a livin' ain't it?

Ethan Hawke teams up with an amazing cast (Matthew McConaughey, Skeet Ulrich, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Dwight Yoakam) to make a movie directed by Richard Linklater about robbing banks in the 1920's. Just to be clear: My favorite actor teams with my favorite director to make a movie about my favorite movie subject. It is just as awesome as it sounds. This movie is so much fun it should come with a warning. Even the credits contain a Johnny Carson interview with the real Willis Newton. In my opinion, this movie, without question, is the most underrated movie of all time.

This movie also came out around the time it became apparent that it would be necessary to develop an internet "handle". Being fresh on my mind, I chose "newtonboy". On the very rare chance that it is taken, I am "newtonboi", but most of the time if you see newtonboy on the internets it is me...

169. Pi (1998)


11:15, restate my assumptions: 1. Mathematics is the language of nature. 2. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. 3. If you graph these numbers, patterns emerge. Therefore: There are patterns everywhere in nature.

Darren Aronofsky's feature film debut is a black-and-white mind trip that follows Maximillian Cohen as he dives headfirst into schizophrenia. I often compare this film to "A Beautiful Mind". Even though Ron Howard's film is based on a true story, I find this movie to be the more realistic depiction of a mathematics whiz losing his mind. Aronofsky uses the camera to make the viewer feel what Max feels and gain a better understanding of his mental illness.

If you are at all interested in the psychology of the human mind, or if you found "A Beautiful Mind" to be a little too cheery and unrealistic then I strongly urge you to check this movie out.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

168. Rounders (1998)


Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.

It is absolutely amazing that something that is as much fun, dramatic, and thrilling as high-stakes hold-em poker has only generated one movie that is worth a crap. There are hundreds of decent movies about baseball, basketball, and football. Even chess has a couple of pretty good movies. Poker has only "Rounders". A good reason they haven't made a good one since 1998 is probably because I don't see how you could get much better. Matt Damon shows he is not just a one hit wonder by showing off his everyman quality once again. Edward Norton also has a breakout performance as Damon's troubled friend. The two proceed to attempt to win enough money to get themselves out of trouble with loan sharks. Poker is played everywhere from backrooms to casinos to VFW buildings along the way.

Beware though, if you choose to have poker night at your house, this movie will be quoted heavily.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

167. Run Lola Run (1998)


Man... probably the most mysterious species on our planet. A mystery of unanswered questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? How do we know what we think we know? Why do we believe anything at all? Countless questions in search of an answer... an answer that will give rise to a new question... and the next answer will give rise to the next question and so on. But, in the end, isn't it always the same question? And always the same answer?

Have you ever watched a movie that made you feel like you had just run a race? If not, let me introduce you to the most hyperkinetic, edge-of-your-seat, thrill-a-minute love story of all time. What is even more exciting is that the major plot of the film (Lola delivering 200,000 marks to her boyfriend before a mobster kills him)only lasts 20 minutes. The writer/director Tom Tykwer solves this problem by retelling the tale three times with a small detail changed each time. Way ahead of its time, this movie would pave the way for every ADHD fueled film since (everything from "The Matrix" to "Scott Pilgrim").

166. Shakespeare in Love (1998)


I love you, Will, beyond poetry.

This movie winning Best Picture over "Saving Private Ryan" at the 1998 Academy Awards is seen by most as one of the greatest travesties in Oscar history. I am here to say that they are wrong. This movie could have taken the easy route and gave an account of historical romance that gave the viewer a fictionalized look at William Shakespeare's personal life. Instead it molds itself as a romantic comedy as if Shakespeare had written the dialogue of his own story. Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow (along with an outstanding supporting class) deserve an enormous amount of credit for pulling off this feat. In my opinion, it still wasn't the best film nominated (that would be "Life is Beautiful"), but it is better than Spielberg's wartime opus.

Monday, December 6, 2010

165. As Good as It Gets (1997)


-You make me want to be a better man.
-...That's maybe the best compliment of my life.
-Well, maybe I overshot a little, because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out.

Probably the best character study I have ever seen. The two main characters in this movie are so rich and complex that Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson pretty much had to win Academy Awards for portraying them. I was pleased to learn that the Psychology class at my school watches this film, and it definitely serves a great purpose. One could spend entire semesters each on Melvin Udall's psyche, his relationships with women, and preconceptions and misconceptions the characters face in this movie. I also think that Greg Kinnear and Cuba Gooding Jr. should play a gay couple in at least one movie every two or three years. They were absolutely priceless.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

164. Boogie Nights (1997)


I am a star. I'm a star, I'm a star, I'm a star. I am a big, bright, shining star. That's right.

From the very first scene this movie grabs hold of you and refuses to let go. One of the best opening scenes of all time, it is an uncut 3-minute take that begins outside of a nightclub, goes inside, and circles around a few times all the while introducing the viewers to most of the main characters while The Emotions' "Best of My Love" plays in the background. The music, combined with some very memorable scenes is the reason why this is my favorite movie to have on in the background during a party. Most of my party days are over, but the conversations, dancing, and merrymaking that this movie can accompany are neverending. Watched in a more attentive setting, the viewer is treated to an epic tale of rise and fall that would make the ancient Greeks proud. There are so many juicy subplots and flawless performances, one has to think that if this movie had been about anything but porn, it would have been the one with thirteen Oscar nominations instead of that yawner about the ship sinking.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

163. Chasing Amy (1997)


Wow! The past three days of movies just happen to be in my top ten of all time. Pretty awesome stretch. This is my favorite film from Kevin Smith (and that's saying a lot!). I love this movie so much I actually made a pilgrimage to Red Bank, New Jersey to sit on the stoop where Holden tells Banky he loves Alyssa and shop in the record store where Hooper exclaims "Ooo, Yanni!" Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and Joey Lauren Adams had all been in plenty of movies, but this is the one that showed that they could rise above the "teen slacker" genre of Smith's movies and "Dazed and Confused". I have read a few screenplays, but this is most definitely the only one I have read multiple times (I have a signed copy!). This movie also happens to contain my favorite monologue of all time. So without further adeu:

I love you. And not, not in a friendly way, although I think we're great friends. And not in a misplaced affection, puppy-dog way, although I'm sure that's what you'll call it. I love you. Very, very simple, very truly. You are the-the epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another human being. And I know that you think of me as just a friend, and crossing that line is-is-is the furthest thing from an option you would ever consider. But I had to say it. I just, I can't take this anymore. I can't stand next to you without wanting to hold you. I can't-I can't look into your eyes without feeling that-that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels. I can't talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. And I know this will probably queer our friendship - no pun intended - but I had to say it, 'cause I've never felt this way before, and I-I don't care. I like who I am because of it. And if bringing this to light means we can't hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But God, I just, I couldn't allow another day to go by without just getting it out there, regardless of the outcome, which by the look on your face is to be the inevitable shoot-down. And, you know, I'll accept that. But I know, I know that some part of you is hesitating for a moment, and if there's a moment of hesitation, then that means you feel something too. And all I ask, please, is that you just - you just not dismiss that, and try to dwell in it for just ten seconds. Alyssa, there isn't another soul on this &#*@ing planet who has ever made me half the person I am when I'm with you, and I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the next plateau. Because it is there between you and me. You can't deny that. Even if, you know, even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that I am forever changed because of who you are and what you've meant to me, which - while I do appreciate it - I'd never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.

Friday, December 3, 2010

162. Gattaca (1997)


There's no gene for fate.

"Consider God's handiwork; who can straighten what He hath made crooked?" - Ecclesiastes 7:13

"I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother wants us to." - Willard Gaylin

I not only think that this is an amazing movie, but I also truly feel it is the most important movie for every person under the age of thirty. Genetic engineering and genetic discrimination ("genoism" as the movie calls it) is coming. Sooner rather than later. It is not a far-fetched idea that my daughter will have the option to review her boyfriends genetic profile before agreeing to marry him, or choose the expressed traits of her future child from the genes available. This movie is the reason I teach science. You may not ever use calculus, write papers, or need to know who the president was during the Spanish-American War, but you will need to make important decisions about your family's life and the laws of our country based upon a working knowledge of Biology and, specifically, genetics.

Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law all give amazing performances. Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture (also used in "THX-1138") gives this movie a super-believable sense of (as the title card says) "the not too distant future".

Thursday, December 2, 2010

161. Life is Beautiful (1997)


You are such a good boy. You sleep now. Dream sweet dreams. Maybe we are both dreaming. Maybe this is all a dream, and in the morning, Mommy will wake us up with milk and cookies. Then, after we eat, I will make love to her two or three times. If I can.

Probably my favorite "grown-up" movie of all time. I have often said that the world would be a better place if everyone started each day off by viewing this movie. Maybe once a week would suffice. The title really says is all. "Life is Beautiful". Enjoy it while you can. Love one another. Hug your mama. Play with your kids. Have fun and stay positive.

I don't really want to spoil anything from this movie. Bottom line: If you haven't seen it, do so, like right now. Bump it to the top of the netflix queue, borrow it from me, rent it from East Coast Music and Video, or illegally download it (last one reserved if all else fails), but see it, now...

PS: if you don't like it, then please don't tell me. I know it may seem shallow, but my opinion of you will drop considerably with this knowledge.

160. Alien: Resurrection (1997)


-Hey, Ripley. I heard you, like, ran into these things before?
-That's right.
-Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?
-I died.

I know what you're thinking. "What a way to screw up a great series." But this is my blog, and this is my favorite "Alien" movie. The series is really unique in that the four movies were directed by four of the greatest directors of all time. Ridley Scott (Gladiator, American Gangster), James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar), David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven), and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (which just happens to be my favorite of this list as well). This movie mixes the "Alien" lore with equal parts comedy, action, and juicy robotic and clone sci-fi.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

159. Anastasia (1997)


You know, you really should watch your blood pressure. My nephew Izzy just keeled over mid-mango. Stress, it's a killer, sir. And he was a fruit bat. No meat. No blood even.

Probably the best non-Disney "fairy tale" animated film of all time, and better than most from Disney. Everything just works in this movie. Rasputin is a little strange, but his sidekick, Bartok the bat, more than makes up for it. The movie and music are both absolutely beautiful throughout.

158. The Fifth Element (1997)


Whoa, lady, I only speak two languages, English and bad English.

The Science-Fiction genre is really lacking in quality titles. I guess it's a whole lot cheaper to churn out another Saw sequel or Nicolas Sparks romance. Luc Besson strikes again with this edge-of-your-seat sci-fi action/comedy/romance/thriller. He wrote the first draft of the screenplay while he was still in high school, and this is a good thing. Anything that a young man could want in a movie is found here: Aliens, BIG guns, explosions, an innocent scantily clad kung-fu fighting former model, Bruce Willis kicking butt, and Chris Tucker talking 100 miles per hour. Gary Oldman absolutely nails another role as the villain. It is amazing how his characters in "The Professional", "JFK", "Air Force One", and this movie are all central villains, but also all completely unique. Bruce Willis is great reprising his role of John McLane. Milla Jovovich plays an awesome anti-damsel-in-distress. Also, the movie has some very unique casting choices for the rest of the movie. Chris Tucker plays a androgenous television celebrity, Tiny Lister (Deebo from Friday) plays the President, and trip-hop pioneer Tricky as the human form of the aliens.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

157. Good Will Hunting (1997)


Only a few times on this blog has a character written my entry for me. This is one of them. This soliloquy from Matt Damon's title character pretty much sums up why he and Ben Affleck won an Oscar for best original screenplay. I also am a big fan of works of art that extol the wonders of Will (the others being Will Smith rap albums):

Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a #&*@. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and &$*#in' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the *#&@in' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure *#&@ it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

156. Jackie Brown (1997)


AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every *#&$(#*$&%er in the room, accept no substitutes.

I realized this afternoon that I had only seen this movie once (probably ten years ago). It was in definite need of a rewatch, and boy does it certainly deserve a place on this blog. Quentin Tarantino can make one heck of a good movie, and, all gimmicks aside, this is probably his best. Sure "Pulp Fiction" may be more quotable, "Reservoir Dogs" certainly has more action, the "Kill Bill"'s have more cartoony fun, and "Inglourious Basterds" may be have more broad appeal, but "Jackie Brown" tells a simple story in a cool, slow way that makes it utterly flawless. Samuel L. Jackson's Ordell is one of the baddest, coolest, smooth-talking fellas to ever appear in fiction. Pam Grier and Robert Forster both give the movie a '70s era cool that could only be attained by folks that defined '70s era cool. If you like any of the QT movies I listed above but skipped this one, I urge you to check it out. If nothing else do it for the silky-smooth soundtrack that literally accompanies the characters through each scene.

Friday, November 26, 2010

155. Independence Day (1996)


Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. "Mankind." That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom... Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution... but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: "We will not go quietly into the night!" We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

For my "arts" class in college I took Intro. to Theater with Dr. Patricia Clark. I had a blast. For our final project we had an open-ended assignment to produce a product about theater. You could write a paper, make a poster-board, give a presentation, or do a monologue (and MOVIES COUNTED!!!). I of course prepared the monologue above. This was pretty easy because I had had this speed memorized for about five years. Dr. Clark loved it! Woohoo!

Let me begin by saying, that according to my standards of refined movie taste, this movie is pretty terrible. That being said, it is just so doggone much fun!!! Fueled by Star Wars (and later "The X-Files"), I was intrigued by aliens. I actually wrote an outline for a movie script called "The Test" in which aliens demolish Washington, D.C. during the Inagaural ball to see how the country would react. When I saw the trailer for "Independence Day" during the 1996 super bowl, I was incensed that they had stolen my idea, but at the same time filled with an overwhelming anticipation to see the movie. Six months later, I LOVED IT! Everthing a fifteen-year-old nerd looks for in movies. It was the second VHS I ever owned (after the Star Wars trilogy, of course), and I actually preordered it so that I could get a glow-in-the-dark frisbee. It's also pretty refreshing to go back and check this movie out because of the use of miniatures. Something just looks a little more real when the objects getting blown up are physically real as opposed to glorified cartoons. This was probably the last great hurrah for this type of special effect.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

154. Sling Blade (1996)


I don't reckon you have to go with women to be a good daddy to a boy. You been real square-dealin' with me. The Bible says two men ought not lay together. But I don't reckon the Good Lord would send anybody like you to Hades. That Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That's an awful big place to live in. You take good care of that boy.

True story: Billy Bob Thornton had been a starving (sometimes literally) actor in Los Angeles for almost fifteen years when he wrote the screenplay for this movie. Famed director Billy Wilder told Thornton that he would never make it on his acting ability alone because of his awkward looks. Wilder advised him to write his own screenplay that would display his acting ability and use his unique talents. From this, "Sling Blade" was born. Although "Forrest Gump" did make the 365, this movie is so much better. The both choose to use mental illness as allegories for innocence, but "Sling Blade" tells a story of a much smaller scale that is able to hit home with the viewer. Most of us don't know a Bubba or Leuitenant Dan, but we all know a dead-beat boyfriend like Doyle and a tough little rascal like Frank. These characters were also perfectly portrayed by Thornton's unlikely costars: country singer Dwight Yoakam and (then-unknown) Lucas Black. John Ritter also fills out the cast as the well-meaning shop-keeper and the subject of the quote above.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

153. Bottle Rocket (1996)


One morning, over at Elizabeth's beach house, she asked me if I'd rather go water-skiing or lay out. And I realized that not only did I not want to answer THAT question, but I never wanted to answer another water-sports question, or see any of these people again for the rest of my life.

As diverse as people are, it sometimes amazes me how similar most movies are. People even tend to place movies in such limited boxes that they can say things like "I don't like dramas" or "I only like action movies". Movies end up being formulaic and familiar because the average person wants to turn off their mind and watch something that makes them comfortable (or at least that's what movie producers think). Still, every once in a while an autuer comes along who has a style that is completely unlike anyone else. Wes Anderson is defiantly original. This movie was his first, and it was so unique that it was denied entrance into the Sundance film festival and completely bombed after its studio showed it on only 48 screens. Now, most people may say that this must mean that the movie is just plain bad, but I promise it's not, it's just plain different. In Roger Ebert's original review, he was critical of Anderson's disjointed, wandering storytelling, but ended by saying that he is looking forward to what he does next. This movie also introduced the world to the Wilson brothers (Owen and Luke), who co-wrote and starred in the movie. Owen was so disappointed with the films failure that he seriously considered joining the Marines before landing a role in "Anacondo"...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

152. Fargo (1996)


You betcha!

Just drove 5 hours in drizzle and fog.... This is a really good movie... :D

Monday, November 22, 2010

151. Hard Eight (1996)


You know the first thing they should've taught you at hooker school? You get the money up front!

The first movie from Paul Thomas Anderson is a dark look at a Nevada casino friendship gone awry. Anderson has an uncanny ability to create characters that feel extremely familiar. The scope of this film isn't anywhere near as broad as his later movies, but it serves as an awesome introduction to his style. John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson all shine, but it is Philip Baker Hall who shines as the sage guiding the misguided young gamblers, prostitutes, and hitmen through life.

This movie also marks the completion of debut movies by my favorite directors. Just to recap here they are:
Paul Thomas Anderson, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Baz Luhrmann, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers
Barely missing this list are: Danny Boyle, John Cameron Mitchell, Wes Anderson, Richard Kelly, Lars Von Trier, and Rob Zombie

Sunday, November 21, 2010

150. Trainspotting (1996)


Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a #*$&ing big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of #*$&ing fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the #*$& you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing #*$&ing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, (%*$ing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, #*$&ed up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?

I claim to have learned a lot from movies. This one, in particular, taught me to never, ever, under any circumstances, use heroin (no matter how wonderful it sounds) because zombie ghost babies will crawl across your ceiling and taunt you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

149. Waiting for Guffman (1996)


If there's an empty space, just fill it with a line, that's what I like to do. Even if it's from another show.

Most people point to "This is Spinal Tap" as the birth of the mockumentary. While I agree for the most part, I was never a huge fan of that movie because, outside of the three members of the fake band, most of the cast was simply not that funny. For me, this is where the genre begins. Mostly because it is Christopher Guest's directorial debut and the first movie that groups together the greatest comedic large ensemble cast of all time. You may not know their names but you certainly can identify them. I'll do my best to help:

Christopher Guest - the six-fingered man
Eugene Levy - the Dad from "American Pie"
Catherine O'Hara - the Mom from "Home Alone"
Michael Hitchock - the deaf glee club's director on "Glee"
Larry Miller - "The Nutty Professor"'s boss
Fred Willard - CEO of Buy'N'Large from "Wall-E"
Parker Posey - Head "hazer" in "Dazed and Confused"
Bob Balaban - Russell from "Seinfeld"

In later Guest movies this core would be joined by:
Jennifer Coolidge - Stifler's Mom
Jane Lynch - Sue Sylvester
Harry Shearer - Ned Flanders

148. Romeo + Juliet (1996)


Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.

I wrote about this movie when I introduced Baz Luhrmann as one of my favorite directors with "Strictly Ballroom". As I stated before, it is astounding to me that a major hollywood studio entrusted this Australian unknown with nearly twenty million dollars and two of the hottest rising stars based upon an idea to remake Shakespeare for an alternate universe Souther California AND keep the Bard's dialogue intact. Helped with amazing performances from Dicaprio and Danes and an awesome soundtrack, Luhrmann pulled off the seemingly impossible. Sometimes lost in the flamboyant awesomeness of this movie are the little touches like the shot above and some amazing forgotten performances by Harold Perrineau (dude from Lost, Oz, and The Matrix) as Mercutio and John Leguizamo as Tybalt.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

147. Before Sunrise (1995)


I know what you mean about wishing somebody wasn't there, though. It's just usually it's myself that I wish I could get away from. Seriously, think about this. I have never been anywhere that I haven't been. I've never had a kiss when I wasn't one of the kissers. Y'know, I've never, um, gone to the movies, when I wasn't there in the audience. I've never been out bowling, if I wasn't there, y'know making some stupid joke. I think that's why so many people hate themselves. Seriously, it's just they are sick to death of being around themselves. Let's say that you and I were together all the time, then you'd start to hate a lot of my mannerisms. The way every time we would have people over, uh, I'd be insecure, and I'd get a little too drunk. Or, uh, the way I'd tell the same stupid pseudo-intellectual story again, and again. Y'see, I've heard all those stories. So of course I'm sick of myself. But being with you, uh, it's made me feel like I'm somebody else.

Every once in a while, you come across a movie by plain dumb luck. For some reason they must have printed way too many copies of this dvd because it has been in bargain bins at Wal-Mart and Big Lots for about the past ten years (on a side note, I urge you to pay the $3 for it next time you see it at Big Lots). I picked it up at Wal-Mart because I saw Ethan Hawke (probably my favorite actor) on the cover. When I flipped it over, I noticed that Richard Linklater directed (who has since become my favorite director, mostly due to this movie and its sequel). With this chance encounter I discovered one of my favorite movies of all time.

The plot is simple, Ethan Hawke's Jesse meets a nice young French girl on a train on the way to Paris. He talks her into spending an evening with him in Vienna along the way. The entire movie takes place during this evening. They walk around the beautiful city talking about every topic from exes to religion to love to their hopes and dreams. This may not sound exciting, but it is not often that you get the chance to see true love blossom before your eyes. Julie Delpy and Hawke give a flawless performance that anyone who has every fallen in love can appreciate. Ironically enough, even though the banter between the couple is why I love the movie, my favorite scene contains no lines at all. Luckily, I found a link and you can check it out below. To set it up a little, they are in a record store's "listening booth" and they have only known each other for a few hours. The way that their eyes dart back and forth and they avoid each other's gaze is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on screen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

146. The City of Lost Children (1995)


-Won't you explain why all those children only have nightmares?
-Because you are their nightmare.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's second movie delves even further into the bizarre than "Delicatessen". Follow me now: A mad scientist creates a family for himself, but with disatrous results (his wife is a dwarf, his children are all narcoleptics, and his masterpiece, Krank, the most intelligent man on Earth, could not dream). After the scientist dies, Krank sets out a plan to kidnap children so that he can steal their dreams. His plan backfires, though, because he is only able to steal nightmares since he is the embodiment of the children's fears. After Krank's minions kidnap a circus strongman's little brother, the strongman sets off on a journey to end the evil genius' wicked ways. And that doesn't even begin to describe all of the intricate wonder that is contained in this movie. Just writing this down makes me want to watch it again.

This was also Ron Perlman's breakthrough role. He portrays the strongman and went on to play TV's Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" and the title character from "Hellboy".

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

145. Mallrats (1995)


I love the smell of commerce in the morning.

Wow! It was really hard to find a quote that was PG rated for this movie. My picture is probably not PG rated (especially if you know the context), but I couldn't resist. This movie is what happens when a movie studio throws a whole bunch of money at someone who (admittedly) doesn't really know much about making movies. Kevin Smith's second film is probably most notable for introducing the world to the greatness of Jason Lee. Lee's Brodie Bruce is a comic book-loving, smart-talking, Shannon Doherty-seducing, fanboy that is able to speak Smith's verbose script so naturally that it actually becomes endearing. That being said this is probably Kevin Smith's worst film, but it is still a lot of fun. This movie is proof that every movie would be better with sage words of wisdom from Stan Lee.

Monday, November 15, 2010

144. Toy Story (1995)


-I've set my laser from stun to kill.
-Oh, great. If anyone attacks we can blink em' to death.

Pixar. 15 years, 11 movies, 11 fresh tomatometer ratings, 5 Best Animated Feature Oscars (the category is only 9 years old), and not a single average movie in the entire bunch. What's even more amazing is that they keep getting better (more on that on this blog for the next 7 months).

As for this film, if you didn't imagine what your toys did when you were away then I'm sorry for you. I'll be honest, I figured my G.I. Joes and Masters of the Universe would team up and have epic wars with Skeletor's minions and Cobra under the leadership of Darth Vader from his Star Destroyer. This movie takes that childhood imagination and adds emotion and drive to the inanimate objects. The fact that the toys are sincerely worried about being replace and want nothing more than to be played with is simple, adorable, and ultimately heartbreaking (as we all know what our toys are doing now that we are grownups). Although the original is a excellent movie on its own, this movie's main legacy will be setting up these characters so that they can take part in probably the two greatest animated movies of all time in 1999 and 2010 (more on those later...).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

143. Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)


High school's better than junior high. They'll call you names, but not as much.

This movie marks Todd Solondz's directorial debut. He has since directed four other films, all very quirky, somewhat depressing, shocking, and very, very original. This is not a movie I would recommend unless you are interested in ultra-obscure, awkward film-as-art. That being said, I dig all of Solondz's films. Not really sure I can give a reason why though...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

142. Kids (1995)


When you're young, not much matters. When you find something that you care about, then that's all you got. When you go to sleep at night you dream of *#$$&. When you wake up it's the same thing. It's there in your face. You can't escape it. Sometimes when you're young the only place to go is inside. That's just it - #*&$ing is what I love. Take that away from me and I really got nothing.

For any adult who has ever wished they could be a fly on the wall in a large group of unsupervised teenagers, this movie gives you that wish, and you probably will regret it. This movie is a brutally honest look at poor, misguided youth in Manhattan. The film centers around Telly and Casper as they spend a hot summer day "boosting" 40's, smoking weed, skateboarding, taking whippets, looking for girls, and talking (a lot). Telly's obsession has become exploring the wonders of deflowering young girls. What makes this movie meaningful is that the viewer finds out that Telly is ignorant of his HIV status. Chloe Sevigny (in her breakout role) gets tested to support her friend (Rosario Dawson, also in her first role), and is shocked to discover that she is HIV positive even though her only sexual partner was Telly.

I see this movie as a "scared straight" exercise. So many young people are misinformed about the dangers of unprotected promiscuity (and how that doesn't mix well with alcohol and drugs). "Kids" speaks to this target audience in their own language. Scenes are very uncomfortable because of their painful realities. No punches are pulled as the viewer is taken along with the group of young people and see everything that they see. For this reason, I don't recommend this film for most people, but if you are curious about how powerfully real a non-documentary film can feel, then you should probably start here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

141. Friday (1995)


I know you don't smoke weed, I know this; but I'm gonna get you high today, 'cause it's Friday; you ain't got no job... and you ain't got $#*@ to do.

It's an absolute shame Chris Tucker has only made 5 non-"Rush Hour" movies in the past 15 years. His breakout performance in this film shaped high school-age vulgar language right up until today. There are so many one-liners and hilarious situations from this film that it is seriously too much to list (as well as too hard to edit). Some of my favorites include Smokey trying (and succeeding) to find a place to use the bathroom, every scene with Ezal, not having two things that match, and breaking into the neighbor's house. Also to this day, straightening your clothes and brushing yourself off is the universal sign for trying to not look high...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

140. Clerks (1994)


You know, there's a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you.

A guy drops out of film school, sells his comic book collection, maxes out a few credit cards, and spends about a month making a dirty little black-and-white movie about his former job with his friends in his hometown. Pure. cinematic. heaven.