Sunday, October 31, 2010

129. Dazed and Confused (1993)


Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin' man, L - I - V - I - N.

Every once in a great while a movie comes along that defies categorization and pulls off a timeless rewatchability that is astounding. With this movie Richard Linklater takes his "conversational" formula from "Slacker" and adds a storyline and some of the most promising young actors and actresses he can find (breakthough roles for Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason London, Cole Hauser, Adam Goldberg, and Anthony Rapp). Throw in an awesome classic rock soundtrack, high school subjects that everyone can relate to, and some of the coolest one liners ever delivered by McConaughey's Wooderson (who just might happen to be one of the greatest fictional characters of all time!). Other than the one above here are some other classics:

-Hey, man you got a joint?
-No, not on me...
-It'd be a whole lot cooler if you did.

-That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.

-I love them redheads!

-Alright, alright, alright...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

128. Strictly Ballroom (1992)


A life lived in fear is a life half lived.

In 1997, Hollywood producers put their trust in a director who had never directed a movie in the United States to helm a version of Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" starring up and comers Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes set in a present day (sorta) Verona Beach with a 14 million dollar budget. This movie is why they felt their money would be safe. Most people have probably seen "Romeo & Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge", but the first part of Baz Luhrmann's "Red Curtain Trilogy" is criminally underseen. This movie may not have any big name stars, everyone speaks with a heavy Aussie accent (I suggest using closed captions), and its main subject is competitive ballroom dancing, but this is one of the sweetest, quirkiest underdog stories of all time. The main character, Fran, is one that everyone can relate to, but especially anyone who has ever been told that they are too ugly, too fat, too slow, or too clumsy to succeed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

127. Reservoir Dogs (1992)


-You kill anybody?
-A few cops.
-No real people?
-Just cops.

Another one of my all-time favorite directors, Quentin Tarantino makes his debut with this film. Tarantino's genius is to make a simple plot outline into a complex jumble of monologue spewing, hysterical, grandeur. This movie is about a group of six criminals that team together for a jewelery store heist that goes very wrong. Most movies would introduce this group using normal crime-team sterotypes with everyone having their own specialty and unique look. Quentin takes the hard road though, and gives them non-descriptive names (Mr. Pink, Orange, Brown, Blue, White, and Blonde)and dresses them all the same (black suits with dark black sunglasses). He also opens the film with the characters eating breakfast at a diner having a complex discussion about the meaning of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and the necessity of tipping. Like most of my favorite directors, conversation is where Tarantino's movies excel. He dares to film single scenes that last for 15-20 minutes and only include dialogue. Most directors and screenwriters cannot handle this challenge, but Quentin dares to blast through those unwritten rules and deliver amazing and original content. Some of the highlights from this film include another amazing performance from Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen's dancing during "Stuck in the Middle with You", and the final climactic "gunfight".

126. A League of Their Own (1992)


-What if at a key moment in the game my, my uniform bursts open and, uh, oops., my bosoms come flying out? That, that might draw a crowd, right?
-You think there are men in this country who ain't seen your bosoms?

I just finished my fourth complete season coaching female athletics (one year of soccer and three years of tennis). Although I have sometimes compared it to playing a videogame where there is an electrical short in your controller (i.e. doesn't quite respond like you want or expect it to), there is a charm and cheeriness to coaching girls that one just doesn't see in the generally more competitive sex. It is easier to keep girls positive, they are better at focusing on the point at hand (instead of letting the last point get them to high or low), and they develop a team comradarie that is not matched with guys. With that being said, there are many times where I feel just like Coach Jimmy Dugan holding back from arguing at a player with ever ounce of effort so as not to make her cry (because, of course, "there is no crying in baseball").

With all due respect to softball (especially the cut-throat, fast-pitch version played by teen girls today), this movie is about women playing REAL (small-ball, fast-pitch, base-stealing, home-plate-colliding) baseball. Geena Davis is the perfect choice to take the viewer on this trip back in time because she has little problem pulling off the tough, but beautiful demeanor of Dottie, the catcher. Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell are great as teammates, and Tom Hanks is downright perfect as the limping, alcoholic, washed up Coach Jimmy Dugan. I challenge anyone with working lacrimal glands to maintain dry eyes during the grand finale where the viewer is fast-forwarded to a "present-day" reunion of real-life professional girls baseball leaguers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

125. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)


No, you submit, do you hear? You be strong, you survive... You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.

Amazing adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's novel. This moving is romantic, thrilling, and educational. Probably the best movie (or story for that matter) about the French and Indian War of all time. One of the coolest aspects of this movie is that it was shot in the mountains of North Carolina. If you have ever climbed Chimney Rock, you have walked the same steps as Daniel Day-Lewis' Hawkeye. I don't care who you are, that's pretty cool!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

124. Baraka (1992)


A pattern that you might detect during my 365 is that I tend to be drawn to films based upon their dialogue. It is certainly true that I believe a solid screenplay can easily overcome poor cinematography and cheap special effects, and that the reverse is certainly not true (even the most expensive robots in the world can't make the Smithsonian in the middle of a desert Mr. Bay...) Well, this movie kinda breaks that mold. This is the only movie in my 365 that is completely without dialogue. With these facts in mind, you must realize that this is the most beautiful work of visual moving of art of all time. Surprisingly enough, a theme actually is developed as the viewer is whisked to some of the most beautiful places on Earth as the relationship between Man and planet is explored. One of the most moving motion pictures of all time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

123. Aladdin (1992)


Yo, Rugman! Haven't seen you in a few millennia. Give me some tassel.

Between the years of 1989 and 1994, Disney simply had it figured out. Before this stretch they were very hit and miss and after this stretch they seemed to have lost all of their talent to a company that rhymes with fixar. "Aladdin" was right in the middle of these. It is an awesome movie, but what stands out for me are the sidekicks. Each of these "traditional" movies has a couple of sidekicks for comic relief. "The Little Mermaid" had Sebastian and Flounder, "Beauty and the Beast" had Lumiere and Cogsworth, and "Aladdin" has Abu and Carpet. Giving the flying carpet a personality was a pure stroke of genius. Without uttering a word the entire film, this team of a monkey and a rug get almost as many (if not more) laughs than an over-the-top, Robin Williams' voiced genie. This movie also has the best Disney duet (and one of the best duets of all time) with "A Whole New World".

Sunday, October 24, 2010

122. Sneakers (1992)


In a surprise announcement, the Republican National Committee has revealed it is bankrupt. A spokesman for the party said they had plenty of money in their accounts last week, but today they just don't know where the money has gone. But not everybody is going begging. Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the United Negro College Fund announced record earnings this week, due mostly to large, anonymous donations.

This movie was the beginning of my obsession with bank robbing. Obviously I'm not ever going to rob a bank, but the idea of stealing from the haves and giving to the have-nots has always intrigued me. When this movie came out, I was just getting to the realization that I would never be a professional basketball player. I replaced this dream with the dream of having a team like the one in this movie. Nerd professionals who were hired by bank executives to rob their banks to point out the flaws. I even wanted an old utility van like the guys have. We also needed cool names (and nicknames) like Whistler, Crease, Mother, Bishop, Cosmo, and Carl. It may sound rather geeky, but my high school and college years weren't spent at parties. Time I didn't spend with a girlfriend was spent with my friend Brian Saleeby. Our Friday nights usually went like this: Catch a movie, get Taco Bell drive-thru, and then eat it in the back of my truck in the Greenville Mall parking lot while discussing ways we could rob all of the banks in the vicinity. (Wow! that really does sound geeky!)

"Sneakers" is a really fun movie with an all-star cast (Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, Dan Akroyd, Sidney Poitier, David Strathairn, and River Phoenix). If you haven't seen it, I suggest you track it down immediately!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

121. Slacker (1991)


-Sorry I'm late.
-That's okay, time doesn't exist.

Richard Linklater is my favorite director of all time. He has directed some pretty big films that you might've heard of: The Bad News Bears remake and School of Rock. Just for the record, these are my least favorite of his films. Linklater is best when he is simply filming people talking. This film is very unconventional in that it is just a series of conversations that people have as the camera wonders around "bohemian" Austin, Texas. I know this type of film probably bores most people, but I eat it up. Some highlights include philosophical debates, UFO theories, and an enterprising woman trying to sell Madonna's pap smear...

120. My Girl (1991)


Where are his glasses? He can't see without his glasses!

One of the most beautiful (and probably the most innocent) love stories of all time. Vada and Thomas J.'s story is sweet and timeless just like first love should be. If this ending doesn't move you to tears, then I just don't know what will...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

119. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)


-There's so many... things I want to say to you.
-No, I love your stories. Tell me a story, Idgie. Go on you ol' Bee Charmer, tell me a good tall tale.
-One time, there this this lake and uh, it was right outside of town. We used to go fishin' and swimmin' and canoein' in it, and uh this one November this flock o'ducks came in and landed on that lake, and uh the temperature dropped so fast that the lake froze right there and then the ducks, they flew off ya see and took the lake with them .... and uh, now they say that lake is over in Georgia... imagin' that.....

There are a handful of movies that have changed as I have gotten older. Most go along the lines of "why did I ever like that?" Like "Labyrinth"... Have you tried watching that as an adult? I mean, those muppeteers were hiiiiiiggghhhh... But I digress. My love for "Fried Green Tomatoes" has never really changed. I have always gotten a kick out of this movie, but my view of the movie has definitely veered drastically. Watching as a younger person, I was completely captivated by the storytelling. Jessica Tandy's Ninnie Threadgood led the viewer (along with Kathy Bates) on one of the most moving and epic stories to ever be told on film (much the same way that Peter Falk tells the story of "The Princess Bride"). There is a little for everyone: romance, comedy, revenge on wife-beaters, and food fights.

Still, watching this movie as an adult made me realize something I had missed before. I may be wrong (and if I am, please don't take this revelation away from me), but Itchie and Ruth were lovers. This makes this movie mean so much more to me. A hidden love that was so obvious and strong, but was secretive that it was even hidden from plain view throughout the course of the movie. I probably saw this movie ten times growing up and never really caught on the possibility until I revisited it a couple of years ago. This is also a movie with amazing rewatchability, but as many times as I have seen it, I am still not sure whether Jessica Tandy's character was Itchie Threadgood or not....

118. Delicatessen (1991)


Nobody is entirely evil: it's that circumstances that make them evil, or they don't know they are doing evil.

As we approach the years of my budding film addiction, this blog is going to get taken over by my favorite directors. One of the most important things I learned while making my way through college one "rent-one-get-one-free" at a time, was that the most important clue to the quality of a movie was the director. Not the stars, the genre, or the trailer, but the man behind the camera. With this is mind, I have compiled a list of guys that pretty much haven't missed in my mind when it comes to helming feature films. They are Quentin Tarantino, the Coens, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Baz Luhrmann, Paul Thomas Anderson, and (today's subject) Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Technically this film was only co-directed by Jeunet along with Marc Caro, but he would venture out on his own after his first couple teaming with Caro (and from what I can tell he didn't lose much...). The best way I can describe Jeunet's filmmaking is that he tells a slow story with attention given to the most minute details at a lightning fast pace. I know that sounds strange, but, trust me, that is the case. "Delicatessen" is a dark comedy about a post-apocalyptic society where food is treated like currency. Even to the extent that the "deli" in question serves up a feast of human flesh every chance it gets. Still, don't let this movie fool you, it is not your run-of-the-mill slasher flick. It is a quirky look at the lengths people will go for power, food, and love. Even if you don't feel like reading the subtitles, this movie is worth it just for the stunning visuals. It's capability to transport you into this alternate universe without the use of fancy CGI is uncanny.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

117. Beauty and the Beast (1991)


She glanced this way, I thought I saw... And when we touched, she didn't shudder at my paw. No, it can't be; I'll just ignore... But then, she's never looked at me that way before...

In 1989, "The Little Mermaid" reinvigorated the Disney animation studio. The next year, "The Rescuers Down Under" was poorly recieved but was the first film to successfully combine computer animations with traditional hand-drawn cels. In 1991, Disney was able to cement its hold on its new brand of animated product with what many see as the greatest animated film of all time. "Beauty and the Beast" pushed the singing, dancing, and comic relief formula developed in "The Little Mermaid" up about three notches. Watching the film actually feels like watching a well-choreographed broadway play (especially with the opening number). This, combined with the stunning visuals, would earn Disney the first ever nomination for Best Picture at the Oscars for an animated film. The ballroom dance while Ms. Potts sang the title song was absolutely jaw-dropping at the time. If nothing else, this film was a peak at what animated movies could do, and that they didn't just have to be kiddie-fare.

Mind you, in 1991 we were still about 5 years away from a little California studio beginning a stretch of flawless animation that would last right up until 2010...

Monday, October 18, 2010

116. JFK (1991)


All these documents are yours. The people's property, you pay for it! But because the government considers you children who might be too disturbed or distressed to face this reality, or because you might possibly lynch those involved, you cannot see these documents for another seventy-five years. I'm in my early forties, so I'll have shuffled off this mortal coil by then, but I'm already telling my eight-year-old son to keep himself physically fit, so that one glorious September morning, in the year 2038, he can walk into the National Archives, and find out what the CIA and the FBI knew! They might even push it back then, hell it may become a generational affair, with questions passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, but someday, somewhere, somebody will find out the damn truth.

Whether you buy what it's selling or not, there is no denying that Oliver Stone created one of the most important, jaw-dropping, epic, and powerful historical dramas of all time with "JFK". For the uniformed viewer, one of the most shocking qualities of this movie is that it is not a movie about John F. Kennedy. Instead, it chooses to attempt to answer the "why" of Kennedy's assassination through an investigation of the "findings" of the Warren commision. After taking the viewer on an exhaustive trip through witnesses to the Dallas attack and acquantances of those most involved, Oliver Stone concludes his masterpiece with a courtroom trial that seeks to charge Clay Shaw with the murder of Kennedy. In one of the most moving moments in the history of film, Stone chooses to break the fourth wall and have Costner's character deliver the final lines (above) directly to the viewer.

Also, just for the record, this movie is one of the biggest reasons the whole "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing works so well. I mean check out this cast, it's pretty much a who's-who of Hollywood for about 70 years:
Kevin Costner
Tommy Lee Jones
Gary Oldman
Joe Pesci
Kevin Bacon
Jack Lemmon
Sissy Spacek
Walter Matthau
Donald Sutherland
Edward Asner
John Candy
Vincent D'Onofrio

My link to Kevin Bacon: 1. My Sister was friends with 2. Jessica Jordan in middle school who played 3. Mandy Moore's stand-in in "A Walk to Remember" who also starred in "Saved" with 4. Macaulay Culkin who was in "Home Alone" with 5. Joe Pesci who was in "JFK" with 6. Kevin Bacan BLAMMMOOOO!!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

115. Barton Fink (1991)


Think about it, Fink! Writers come and go; we always need Indians!

Not really an easy way to describe this movie except to say that the Coen brothers could make a movie about the most boring thing you could imagine and it would still be awesome. This is one of my favorites from them, but, again, I can't really explain why. I know that is a cop-out, but it is honest. I will say I believe the Coens really found two of their most important muses in John Turturro and John Goodman with this movie. Also, people were wondering what was in Barton Fink's box long before Marcellus Wallace's briefcase or whether Patrick Bateman's life was fantasy or reality...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

114. Miller's Crossing (1990)


It's gettin' so a businessman can't expect no return from a fixed fight. Now, if you can't trust a fix, what can you trust? For a good return, you gotta go bettin' on chance - and then you're back with anarchy, right back in the jungle.

The Coen brothers took everything they liked about classic gangster movies, stories, and real-life, shook it up in a gray fedora, added their personal touches of lightning quick dialogue and comedy, and updated it all for the modern cinema. The result was probably the greatest gangster movie of all time (note: I know I said "Angels with Dirty Faces" was my favorite of all time, this is simply the best). Yep, better than "The Godfather" (super-duper overrated), better than "Goodfellas" (slick and stylish, but sorely lacking a point in my opinion), and world's better than "Scarface" (a disgusting bore of a movie).

113. Back to the Future Part III


-Hey, Doc! Where you goin' now? Back to the future?
-Nope. Already been there.

I think I've already said all there is to say about this series. One of the most fun, thrilling, and inventive trilogies of all time. This one adds the old west to the mix, a love interest for Doc Brown, and the greatest 1880's geek kid names ever: Jules and Verne.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

112. The Little Mermaid (1989)


Look at this stuff, isn't it neat? / Wouldn't ya think my collection's complete / Wouldn't you think I'm the girl / Girl who has everything / Look at this trove, treasures untold / How many wonders can one cavern hold? / Looking around you'd think / Sure, she's got everything / I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty / I have whoozits and whatzis galore / You want thingamabobs? I've got twenty / But who cares? No big deal / I want more.

I am about to tell you something very personal. If that bothers you, please stop reading now...

In 1989, I was eight years old. Still a few years away from puberty, but this movie marked the exact moment that a switch flipped in my brain that said: "WOW, girls are awesome!!!" I'm not sure if it is a commentary on my entire generation as a whole or just an indictment of my personal screwed up psyche, but something about Ariel was the trigger that awoke my heterosexuality. Maybe it was her innocence, passion for adventure, or desire for freedom. It is quite possible that it was her beautiful big eyes, her flowing red hair, or her seashell bikini. But most probable is that it was her voice. "Part of Your World" remains one of my favorite songs from any movie, and the loss of her voice made the story that much more thrilling for me. Ten years later, I think some of the reason for my feelings about this movie would make a little more sense. My church had just hired a new choir director, a redhead, who could sing like nobody's business. It took a few months, to get her to really notice me, but it was only a few years later that we were married. I truly believe that this movie was a subconscious signal foreshadowing my one true love. On our second date, there were no movies I really wanted to see at the theater so we watched Angie's VHS copy of "The Little Mermaid"...

On a side note, one thing that has always bothered me about the story comes at the end of the song "Kiss the Girl" (another amazing classic). Flotsam and Jetsam foil Ariel's plan to kiss Eric by flipping their rowboat. If I was Eric, that would have made the moment even more passionate. Hasn't he seen "From Here to Eternity"??!!??

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

111. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)


-Did I ever tell you about the first time I ever been outside the state of Georgia?
-No, when was that?
-Oh, a few minutes ago.

What better way to tell the story of the civil rights movement in American than through the eyes of an elderly Jewish widow and her witty black chaeffur? I admit, this movie is a little shortsighted and naive (what about Hoke's family life, does he live at the whims of Miss Daisy?), but it is a pretty beautiful story about how love and true friendship can show up in some very strange and unexpected places.

110. Back to the Future II (1989)


The time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women!

It's hard to believe that the original "Back to the Future" was made without a sequel in mind. The trilogy just flows so smoothly it seems as if they were all made "Lord of the Rings" style (you know, all in one go). They actually went back on the dvds and added "to be continued" to the end of the original film. I guess we have Michael J. Fox to thank for not growing up and still being able to pull off a bumbling high school student at nearly 28 years old (and two years later at nearly 30 for part III).

Part II adds a trip to the future (and then a return to an alternate 1985) to the mix. We find that in 2015, clothes fit and dry themselves, cars can fly, movies are in holographic 3-D, videogames in which you "use your hands" are for babies. But the thing that absolutely takes the cake above all the rest is the object that has been on everybody's Christmas wish list ever since 1989: A HOVERBOARD. Even the cutesy Mattel Barbie version is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I can't wait until we have them in five years...

Monday, October 11, 2010

109. Roger & Me (1989)


So this was GM chairman Roger Smith. And he appeared to have a brilliant plan: First, close 11 factories in the U.S, then open 11 in Mexico where you pay the workers 70 cents an hour. Then, use the money you've saved by building cars in Mexico to take over other companies, preferably high-tech firms and weapons manufacturers. Next, tell the union you're broke and they happily agree to give back a couple billion dollars in wage cuts. You then take that money from the workers, and eliminate their jobs by building more foreign factories. Roger Smith was a true genius.

The shining happy power of capitalism is the greatest pack of lies that has ever been pulled on the American people. The majority of us are a missed paycheck or two away from food stamps, and yet we sit idly by as the gaping chasm between those that have and those that do not grows ever wider all because we have that "American Dream" that one day we too, will be one of the elite. This is the first of many documentaries that will be on this list. My students usually groan when I promise a movie in class and then qualify that it is a documentary, but these movies can be just a powerful, emotional, action-packed, and funny as a traditional movie. Good docs tell about a very interesting (usually ignored or forgotten) snippet of reality. Great documentaries take this real-life story and turn it into a work of art. With "Roger & Me" Michael Moore changes the face of docs. There had been others that tried to sway public opinion, but this was the first that really sought to do so primarily through enteratainment. Simply put, his movies are funny, witty, and can be truly moving. In the movie's most powerful scene Moore intercuts a General Motors company Christmas party with families being evicted from their house on Christmas Eve. Regardless of your political persuasion, you have to admit that this man can make a movie.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

108. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)


-It's disgraceful, you're old enough to be her... her grandfather.
-Well, I'm as human as the next man.
-Dad, I *was* the next man.
-Oh... ships that pass in the night.

I've already pretty much said everything there is to say about the greatest action-adventure hero of all time... Except this: This is the last Indiana Jones film that will appear on this blog. Note to Mr. Spieldberg and Mr. Lucas - Adding Sean Connery and River Phoenix as Indy's dad and young Indy respectively is infinitely greater than adding the kid from Holes, a caricature of Cate Blanchett, stupid CG monkeys, and (horror of all horrors!!!) aliens to the greatness that is Harrison Ford kicking butt, taking names, and talking trash!

107. Do the Right Thing (1989)


Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It's a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that's right. Ooh, it's a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he's down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love.

Bar-none, the quintessiental movie dealing with race relations. Spike Lee tells the story of the hottest day of the year on a New York City block, but the thermometer isn't the only thing boiling over. Some may disagree, but in my opinion Lee's views about race are the most honest and even-handed that have ever been shared through film.

Friday, October 8, 2010

106. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)


If I was a woodcutter, I'd cut. If I was a fire, I'd burn. But I'm a heart and I love. That's the only thing I can do.

I have always said that Martin Scorsese makes amazing, flawless movies about people I don't care about. This movie is really the one big exception. It combines his near-perfect filmmaking with the person I care about most in the history of mankind, Jesus. The first thing that one needs to understand about this movie is that it is not just a retelling of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, it isn't even based on the gospels of the Bible. Instead, it is a conceptual vision of what it must have been like for a human on Earth to carry the power, responsibility, and mission that Jesus had laid upon him by his father. The first big shock is that Jesus is makes crosses in the movie. This actually makes sense since he was a carpenter by trade, but using this as an act of defiance by Jesus against God's mission is pretty insightful. Also, Harvey Keitel's Judas is cast as more of a "right-hand-man" than a conniving betrayer. Then, in those last fateful moments of his life, Jesus envisions what his life would be like as a normal man with a home and family. In my opinion, telling the story in this way, gives the viewer a greater appreciation and empathy for Jesus' struggles than any amount of graphic flogging could grant (I'm looking at you Mel...).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

105. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)


September 21, 1945... that was the night I died.

I would venture to say that most people (especially in the US) view war as a necessary evil. How else would we "protect our freedom"? I am not saying that this view is wrong, but I do believe that it is the duty of a proponent of war to gain an understanding of its sometimes unforeseen tragedies. More than any other film I have ever seen (including live-action documentaries) this movie paints the bleek picture of the collateral damage of war as seen through the eyes of a young brother and sister. Their struggle to survive in World War II Japan is moving, beautiful, and extremely tragic. If you can sit through this movie and still see war as an answer to any problem, then I will truly respect your opinion (although, I'll still be quite baffled by it). I must issue a warning, this is one of the saddest and most depressing movies of all time, but, for this reason, I also feel that it is one of the most important movies ever made.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

104. Akira (1988)


I... am Tetsuo.

This is the movie that most credit with bringing Japanese animation to the shores of the United States. For the most part that is true. It showed a whole generation of nerds and geeks like myself how cool "cartoons" could be if you bloodied them up, cursed, and drove around on super-cool futuristic motorcycles. Still, to think of this movie only as the vehicle for the delivery of anime to America is a great injustice. Katsuhiro Otomo wrote the manga (read: Japanese comic book) in serialized form from 1982 until 1990 and it is accepted by most as the masterwork in the "cyberpunk" subgenre of comics. In 1988, Otomo took the very beginning of his epic story and translated it to the screen in one of the coolest, trippiest, films to ever be made.

I know it's cliche, but if you are curious about anime (and Miyazaki is just a little too cutesy and psychadelic for you) then you should most definitely start here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

103. Willow (1988)


-What the hell happened up there?
-You started spouting poetry. "I love you Sorsha! I worship you Sorsha!" You almost got us killed!
-"I love you Sorsha?" I don't love her, she kicked me in the face! I hate her... Don't I?

The fantasy genre is a little lacking when it comes to feature films. You pretty much have the Lord of the Rings trilogy and ... .... Krull I guess... As much as it pains me to say it, I think that sword and scorcery fantasy is simply better served through print media (whether it be books or roleplaying supplements) than the big screen. One exception to this for me has always been Willow. A George Lucas story directed by Ron Howard about the actor who portrayed Wicket the Ewok saving a little red-haired baby (and thus the good of all humanity) with the help of a sword-weilding Val Kilmer. I tingle just thinking about how much fun this movie is. It has been pretty much forgotten over the years, so I urge all of those under the age of 22 to find a copy of this and watch it immediately.

Along with (even more forgotten) "Young Sherlock Holmes" this movie also included some of the first computer animation from Industrial Light and Magic which would eventually form the little offshoot known as Pixar (which George Lucas then sold to his buddy Steve Jobs). Much more about that little studio staring around 1994. Also, just for the record, I really tried to talk Angie into naming Abby "Elora Danan Tyer".

Monday, October 4, 2010

102. The Land Before Time (1988)


Petrie, do not feel sad. It is alright. Many things cannot fly. Rocks, trees, sticks, Spike...

This was one of the first movies that showed me how much a film could affect the viewer's emotions. Like in "An American Tail", Don Bluth ventures outside of the formulaic Disney script and tells a story that is funny and adventerous but also doesn't shy away from true emotions like some "children's" movies tend to do. I challenge you to keep your eyes dry when Littlefoot's mother dies (don't worry it's not really a spoiler if you haven't seen it). The journey that the rag-tag group of dinos departs on is nothing short of inspirational. Lessons of friendship, teamwork, and love abound throughout and speak to adult watchers just as sincerely as to children.

101. The Untouchables (1987)


You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.

I have always been a fan of the style of prohibition era gangsters and cops. Wearing nice suits and fedoras to work everyday I think was the peak of style (at least for men) in the past 200 years. This film follows Eliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner in his breakout role) and his team of "untouchable" agents as they fight to take down Al Capone's crime syndicate. Robert DeNiro does a haunting job in bringing the most notorious gangster to life, and Sean Connery rounds out the top-billed cast in an Oscar-winning role as one of Ness' top men. Brian de Palma directs and I usually either love his movies (this one) or hate them (Scarface). Regardless of my personal opinions about his subject matters though, he sure can direct his butt off.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

100. Spaceballs (1987)


What's the matter, Colonel Sandurz? CHICKEN?

One of my favorite comedic directors riffs on my favorite movie franchise of all time, with Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Joan Rivers (as a C3-PO knock-off no less) all along for the ride. Sign me up! That being said, this isn't my favorite Mel Brooks movie (that would be "Young Frankenstein"), but it does probably contain more puns than any movie in history. Many of the jokes are groan-worthy, but Rick Moranis' Dark Helmet really saves the movie from itself with his over-the-top performance as a power-obsessed Darth Vader knock-off.

100 posts and 60 years down, 265 posts and 23 years to go!

Friday, October 1, 2010

99. Raising Arizona (1987)


There's what's right and there's what's right and never the twain shall meet.

While they didn't hit it really big until a little movie about a cop in North Dakota a few years later, this is the movie where the Coen Brothers really found their niche. Only Joel and Ethan Coen could make a side-splitting comedy about infertility, baby kidnapping, convenience store robbery, and an evil, murderous bounty hunter. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter are absolutely flawless as married couple Hi (short for H.I.) and Ed (short for Edwina) and this movie is worth it just to watch their marital "bliss" unfold. They meet while Ed, a policewoman, is taking Hi's mugshot, and then it gets wierd...

Off to Chapel Hill to see them Pirates play this afternoon so today's post is early and I'm not making any promises about tomorrow's post...