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.

139. Leon: The Professional (1994)


I don't give a &*$@ about sleeping, Leon. I want love, or death. That's it.

Luc Besson's first English language film was also the breakout role of Natalie Portman. That being said, this movie really could only be directed by a Frenchman. Seriously, a twelve-year-old girl gets "adopted" by a hitman after her family gets murdered. That would be an interesting movie if it ended there, but, of course, there's more. The hitman then agrees to train the girl in the ways of being a good "cleaner". This movie could have easily turned into a very uncomfortable affair if not for the acting prowess of Portman and Jean Reno. Gary Oldman also cements his evil genius role that he would reprise again and again over the next decade.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

138. Natural Born Killers (1994)


You'll never understand, Wayne. You and me, we're not even the same species. I used to be you, then I evolved. From where you're standing, you're a man. From where I'm standing, you're an ape. You're not even an ape. You're a media person. Media's like the weather, only it's man-made weather. Murder? It's pure. You're the one made it impure. You're buying and selling fear. You say "why?" I say "why bother?"

There are three types of violence in movies. The first is hyper-realistic violence meant to show the viewer what something was really like. This is usually used in historical epics like "Braveheart" or "The Passion of the Christ". The second is gore. This is the type of violence meant to elicit a thrilling, horrific, or sometimes even humorous responce. This can be as tame as a blood spatter in a cop movie or as over-the-top as "torture-porn" in movies like "Saw" or "Hostel". The third type is fantasy violence (and not "Lord of the Rings" fantasy). This violence is unrealistic, super-stylized, and usually meant to elicit an emotional (or even esthetic) response. The first style is understandable because the filmmaker is telling an accurate story. The second, most of the time I find to be unneccesary and offensive (the exception to this is in movies that are truly inventive such as "Audition" or Rob Zombie horror films). The third type though is what is found in this movie.

I must warn, "Natural Born Killers" is probably the most unapologetically violent film I have ever seen. Mickey and Mallory Knox drive across the country killing pretty much everyone on their way with no good reason. Still, the violence is presented as evidence of the directors theme instead of being useless gore. The violence is also extremely unrealistic and, for lack of a better word, artsy. For this reason, I don't really find that part of this movie very offensive. What is offensive is the much more realistic portrayal of the media's attention to Mickey and Mallory's killing spree. Robert Downey Jr. is flawless as the Geraldo Rivera-esque news magazine anchor that seeks to milk the killing spree of every drop of its ratings. The most powerful thing about the film is that it makes the viewer question who the real demons are. To pervert an Obi-wan quotation: "Who's the more demonic, the demon or the demon who exploits him?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

137. Pulp Fiction (1994)


The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

Say what you will, but this is probably the single most important film of my lifetime. I have written before how "Star Wars" shifted the goal of filmmakers away from making works of art and closer to jockeying for the box-office crown. "Pulp Fiction" showed filmmakers that there was still love out there for those that chose to do things their own way. Tarantino packs every classic trick into this film: nonlinear storytelling, long, slow scenes, and even title cards. What was most refreshing about this film was that it didn't really care about being art AND it didn't care about making lots of money; this movie's sole goal is the pursuit of cool. From the soundtrack, to the smooth-as-silk actors and actresses, all the way through all the little quirky touches, this movie is straight up cool as ice. I would venture to say that the scene where Vince and Jules recover Marcellus Wallace's breifcase is probably the coolest scene in cinema history. Any single line taken from the scene instantly ratchets up a conversation's cool factor. Try it sometime: "Say "WHAT" again!", "That is a tasty burger!", "What does Marcellus Wallace look like? Does he look like a *%)#$? Then why you try to *$(# him like a &$*#(?"

Just for the record, according to Tarantino himself, the briefcase contains "whatever the viewer wants it (to contain)".

Sunday, November 7, 2010

136. Forrest Gump (1994)


You know it's funny what a young man recollects? 'Cause I don't remember bein' born. I don't recall what I got for my first Christmas and I don't know when I went on my first outdoor picnic. But I do remember the first time I heard the sweetest voice in the wide world.

I have this completely irrational thing when it comes to movies. No matter how much I like a movie, I will always hold some amount of disdain for it if it wins Academy Awards that it didn't deserve. There have been quite a few movies like this over the past twenty or so years (Crash, American Beauty, A Beautiful Mind, Return of the King, just to name a few). Suffice it to say, "Forrest Gump" fits this mold. It is a near perfect little movie. Tracing the most important moments in the past fifty years of U.S. history through the eyes of a lovable "man-child" was a stroke of genius. Still, over the next four days I will chronicle four movies from four of my favorite directors (Luc Besson, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, and Kevin Smith)that deserve all the accolades that they have recieved and (as bitter as it may sound) most of the accolades that "Forrest Gump" recieved.

135. The Lion King (1994)


Let me get this straight. You know her. She knows you. But she wants to eat him. And everybody's okay with this? .... Did I miss something?

Argue if you like, but here I present Disney's last great film. Sure, Pixar's films are distributed by Disney and a couple of later films will appear on this list, but this was the traditional Walt Disney animation studio's swan song. And what a song it was. This film is straight-up epic. Without a single line of dialogue the opening scene alone sets the stage for a story told on a beautiful grand scale. I think what really makes the movie stands out are its songs. There are other Disney songs I like better, but this soundtrack from top to bottom I think is the best of the studio's offerings. Think about it: "The Circle of Life", "I Just Can't Wait (to be King)", "Be Prepared", "Hakuna Matata", and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight". I'm also a little biased because I had the priviledge to sing that last duet with Angie Cascioli at my 8th grade chorus concert.

Friday, November 5, 2010

134. Hoop Dreams (1994)


People always say to me, "when you get to the NBA, don't forget about me." Well, I should've said back, "if I don't make it to the NBA, don't you forget about me."

Roger Ebert has called this movie the best documentary of all time. I can see why. It is the story of two young boys' journeys to make a life for themselves with basketball. Recently this movie contrasts with the very interesting story of Lebron's high school team: "More than a Game". Both movies document the dreams of young, poor, urban children fighting for a chance with basketball, but let's just say neither William Gates nor Arthur Agee sold many sneakers in their career. At nearly three hours, the movie certainly requires some dedication from the veiwer, but it captivates with its moving drama as the viewer follows the young men both on the court and off.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

133. Maverick (1994)


The man who'll blow your brains out is Marshal Zane Cooper. You've probably heard of him, I know what you're thinking, he's old and decrepit, gums his food AND his women, but he can still shoot straight. After you is ugly Annie Bransford. When she was born, she came out backwards and no one noticed. Hell, when she was little, her parents had to tie a pork chop around her neck so the dog would play with her. When she's making love, she has to pretend SHE'S someone else!

Mel Gibson, James Garner, and Jodie Foster team up with director Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon) to make what is probably the best comedy western of all time (not that there is much competition, I'd call "Blazing Saddles" a western comedy ;) ). This is just a fun movie where everyone is double and triple-crossed as the main characters live life like it's one giant hand of poker. Throw in cameos that are pretty much a "who's-who" in the history of western film and a poker game grand finale that ranks right up there with "Rounders" and you have a movie that the whole family can enjoy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

132. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

Not really much I can say about this movie except that it's probably the closest thing to a perfect movie that exists. I, personally, don't find it very rewatchable because there is simply so much hardship to go through before the "redemption". Probably its most important contribution to cinema in general is the cementing of Morgan Freeman as the "go-to" guy for the role of the wise, sage-like, father/grandfather figure.

131. Reality Bites (1994)


There's no point to any of this. It's all just a... a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know... a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter become a cackle... and I, I sit back and I smoke my Camel Straights and I ride my own melt.

Ethan Hawke is my favorite actor of all time. This is the movie where he developed his on-screen persona as the "existential slacker" that he has carried through many other movies. To me, this is the perfect movie character: Good looking, a lot to say about everything, problems (but not really overwhelmed by them), and never ever a bore. Combine Hawke's artsy slacker with Wynona Rider's stressed-out genius, Janeane Garofalo's jaded "best-friend", Steve Zahn's closeted homosexual, and Ben Stiller's yuppie executive and you have the makings of one of the best coming-of-age stories of all time. The soundtrack to this movie is also outstanding with the introduction of the goddess that is Lisa Loeb and Ethan Hawke reviving the Violent Femmes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

130. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)


I lost. I lost? Wait a second, I'm not supposed to lose. Let me see the script.

As I've stated before, Robin Hood is probably my favorite legend of all time. Combine this with the comedic genius of Mel Brooks and you have pure cinema magic. Also, in all seriousness, Cary Elwes is second to only Errol Flynn as they greatest big screen Robin Hood ever (take that Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe). This movie is filled to the brim with some of the greatest comedic actors of all time: Dom DeLuise, Tracy Ullman, Dick van Patton, Richard Lewis, and Mel Brooks himself. It also was the debut film for one Dave Chappelle (who is probably one of the top five funniest people on the planet). One of the best parts about this comedy is that Brooks completely ignored "the 4th wall" (that is the unawareness of the characters that they are in a movie). As in the quote above the characters ask for and argue about the script, they reference other movies (-A black sheriff??? -It worked in Blazing Saddles), and there is even one swordfight where they poke through a window to reveal crew members taking a break on the other side.