Saturday, April 30, 2011

308. Inside Man (2006)


-This time next week, I'll be sucking down piña coladas in a hot tub with six girls named Amber and Tiffany.
-More like taking a shower with two guys named Jamal and Jesus, if you know what I mean. And here's the bad news: that thing you're sucking on? It's not a piña colada!

Spike Lee directs Clive Owen vs. Denzel Washington in what is probably the best bank-robbin' movie of the new millennium.

But enough about that, while searching for ways to get to my blocked blog at school, I discovered a Czechoslavakian website that specializes in 365-day blogs. I just so happen to have been their entry on April 1.

Check it out!
I am so humbled... ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

307. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)


When Jean-Baptiste did finally learn to speak he soon found that everyday language proved inadequate for all the olfactory experiences accumulating within himself.

If you've never seen a film directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Heaven, The Princess and the Warrior), I highly suggest that you do so immediately. His films are criminally underseen including this one, which is one of the most unique and mind-blowing films I have seen in the past decade. Very few writer/directors would have the guts and ability to pull off a story in which the protaganist creates amazing perfumes by using the literal essence of murdered women as his secret ingredient. This film is not a love story, instead it is a love letter to boiled down essences of beauty, love, and humanity.

306. Shortbus (2006)


As my dear departed friend Lotus Weinstock used to say: "I used to wanna change the world. Now I just wanna leave the room with a little dignity."

This movie remains the only film that actually thanks me on the DVD credits. It also just happens to be the best film of all time to contain what nervous critics call "unsimulated sex". If you are (really) open-minded about sexuality, it is an amazing, funny, and touching look at relationships in New York after September 11th.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

305. Wordplay (2006)


And there's word-choice rules. You can't use - usually - bodily functions in puzzles, you know. "Urine" would bail me out of a corner, I mean, a million times a year. Same with "enema." "Enema" - talk about great letters...

A documentary about crossword puzzles. Sometimes movies that can be summed up so succintly are bland, but it is much more often that a filmmaker is able to tell a gripping story from the seemingly mundane by strictly keeping it simple. The first half of the movie explains the power of the puzzle by studying its main champion, New York times puzzle guru Will Shortz, and his fans. The film really takes off though in the second act as dedicated word wizards tackle the puzzles at competition. This is definitely one of those movies that will make you want to watch more documentaries.

304. The Nativity Story (2006)


He is for all mankind.

I've said it for quite a while now, but I have a screenplay in me somewhere. If and when it ever gets down on the written page, its inspiration will be clear. There is no doubt in my eyes that the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that has ever happened to humanity. In my experience, this is the only film that has captured any aspect of his life with appropriate respect and power all the while helping to deliver Christ's message of hope and love. Keisha Castle-Hughes is absolutely perfect as the virgin Mary and I won't hold it against the director that she gave up on making good films after this one to make a certain blood-sucking piece of Mormon propaganda.

Monday, April 25, 2011

303. Slither (2006)


Grant looks like a squid, don't know where he's gonna hide... Seaworld maybe.

Nathan Fillion, the writer of the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, Elizabeth Banks, zombie-creating aliens, and super-ironic-awesome music!!! Count me in!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

302. Snakes on a Plane (2006)


All praises to the PlayStation.

Every once in a while a movie comes along and delivers exactly what it promises. If Samuel L. Jackson vs. hundreds of venomous snakes on a 777 Hawaii to California flight doesn't pique your interest then I can guarantee you won't like this movie. On the other hand, that sounds pretty awesome to me. It also helps if you see this movie with fun people. I happened to catch it at the midnight preview showing in a small sold out theater and had an absolute blast!

301. 49 Up (2005)


Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.

In 1964, director Michael Apted interviewed fourteen seven-year-olds. He has since returned every seven years and interviewed those that were willing to be involved with the project. These films could have easily taken up five or six slots in my 365, but I decided to lump them all together in this one entry for the latest (and probably close to best) film. It is absolutely astounding how these folks changed during their lives. Just when you think you have someone figured out as a loser, snob, housewife, or a upstanding individual, they shock you with a drastic change in the next film. One of the most important lessons learned from this vast character study is to never judge someone in absolutes. If you don't like someone, simply wait a few years, they'll probably change. Or maybe it's that they are better able to show you who they really are. Either way, this is probably the best documentary series of all time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

300. Brokeback Mountain (2005)


Jack, I swear...

December 16, 2005: I talked Angie into driving to Raleigh with me to see this movie on opening night. It was showing at the Rialto theater, which has since become my favorite theater in the state. There is only one screen, a reasonably priced concession stand, and beer and wine available at a small bar. The inside is beautiful with old-fashioned sloping theater seating, instead of that stadium seating that has become the norm, and a UFO shaped light in the center of the ceiling. Everything has an art deco feel and genuinely adds to the feel of a night at the movies. Considering the content of the film, the sold out audience was about 80 percent homosexual men. The reason I include this detail is that watching a movie with the appropriate audience can seriously add to the experience as it did on this night.

Before the movie, the theater owner politely told the audience that this was a "quiet" movie and to respect their fellow movie goers with their silence. And boy is this movie beautiful. Ang Lee uses film as his paintbrush as he captures every shot with the eye of a true autuer. This cinematography coupled with the simple story of forbidden love played out beautifully by the late great Heath Ledger and Jack Gyllenhaal, made for my favorite movie of 2005. The highlight of the film is when the characters reunite after a couple of years and without hesitation embrace with a heated, passionate kiss. The audience at the Rialto erupted in applause, and the thought of this moment still gives me goosebumps.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

299. The Devil's Rejects (2005)


-Please, mister. This is insane.
-Boy, the next word that comes out of your mouth better be some brilliant #&$*in' Mark Twain $&#*. 'Cause it's definitely getting chiseled on your tombstone.

Rated R for sadistic violence, strong sexual content, language and drug use.

The above is not an exaggeration. I strongly urge you NOT to watch this movie! That being said, here we have my favorite horror movie of all time. With this film, Rob Zombie acheives what should be the goal of all horror: making you root for some bad, bad people. Most horror is content with splashing you with gore, making you jump a couple of times, or incite you to yell at the idiot teenagers running upstair, but Zombie develops his family murderers to the where they are lovable and grisly at the same time. The use of classic rock, slow motion, and stillframe are absolutely beautiful moves and remind the viewer that this is fantasy. While every shot LOOKS real, these film techniques keep the movie from feeling real. This allows the jump from a turn-the-other-cheek pacifist (like myself) to someone who would cheer a family of murderers on as they stick it to the man all the way to the end.

298. Happy Endings (2005)


-I'm not pro-life, though.
-Who is, once you start to pay attention?

This movie weaves together many different stories about love, family, aging, and sexuality using criminally underused methods such as narration, title cards, and splitscreen. It almost doesn't work, but director Don Roos makes a genius move by giving the role of emotional anchor to the absolutely divine Maggie Gyllenhaal. There is something about her on-screen presence that simply makes me happy. She could honestly make my heart warmer by reading the phone book. The movie also gives a pretty large role to Jason Ritter who captures his late father's bumbling charisma with ease.

297. Imagine Me & You (2005)


-What does the lily mean?
-The lily means... The lily means, "I dare you to love me".

This movie has all of the ingredients of a neat little romantic comedy: an annoying, but loyal best friend, a cute kid, a wedding, overbearing parents, and beautiful actors and actresses. The plot is not that unconventional as well: a girl is ready to settle down with her longtime boyfriend, but catches the eye of a mysterious stranger at the wedding that immediately sets of bells and whistles in her heart that she has never felt before. The one catch is that this stranger just happens to be a girl as well. The women in question are portrayed in absolutely adorable fashion by the vastly underrated Piper Perabo and Lena Headey. Probably my favorite rom-com of the '00s!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

296. Manderlay (2005)


-There's nothing to be afraid of. We've taken all of the family's weapons.
-No. I'm afraid of what will happen now. I feel we ain't ready - for a completely new way of life. At Manderlay we slaves took supper at seven. When do people take supper when they're free? We don't know these things.

The second movie in Lars Von Trier's as yet unfinished trilogy "USA - Land of Opportunites". Where "Dogville" made the viewer question the way they look at and treat the poor, "Manderlay" looks at Americans' views about race, slavery, and what it means to be free. Bryce Dallas Howard takes over Nicole Kidman's role as Grace and, in my opinion, actually does a better job. She plays the role with the honesty and vigor that truly links the viewer to her intentions and her plight as she attempts to forcibly free the slaves of a southern cotton plantation. I must warn viewers though, this movie is very graphic in its treatment of it subjects (both human and animal).

295. Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)


I don't want to have to do this living. I just walk around. I want to be swept off my feet, you know? I want my children to have magical powers. I am prepared for amazing things to happen. I can handle it.

This movie is about innocence. The innocence of children, the innocence of first love, and the innocence of the discovery of sexuality. That last one may be a little off-putting for some, but this movie chooses to deal with all of those topics as equals instead of viewing one of the three with disdain. We often shine sexuality in a negative light, especially when dealing with young people, but that really does them a disservice. The idea of "sex=bad" is just as unhealthy of a view as "sex=okay", if not more. With this as its base, the film explores relationships between adults, between young people, and between young people and adults. Still, the movie is not about pedophilia and certainly doesn't glorify or make excuse for such actions. It is simply an homage to the beauty of innocence. If you have an open mind, and a loving heart, you should probably check it out.

294. Murderball (2005)


We're not going for a hug. We're going for a *$&#ing gold medal.

A documentary about a group of guys that have every reason to quit at life spitting in the face of their fate by competing in wheelchair rugby. Oftentimes people tend to lump the Special Olympics and the Paralympics into the same category. This movie shows you why that simply does not work. The men in this movie are all paralyzed (most have only limited use of their arms) and confined to wheelchairs. Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, they decided to put armor on their chairs, bash into each other, and turn it into a sport. The "characters" in this movie or much more vibrant and moving than in the average movie. I guarantee that you'll be cheering about a sport you've never even heard of by the end of the film.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

293. Rize (2005)


We have the belief that we can be somebody... and that we're gonna be somebody.We're gonna... we're gonna rise, no matter what.

What happens when you get a world-famous photographer who has never directed a movie to direct a documentary about some of the most interesting people in Los Angeles dancing in a way that requires a disclaimer ("The images in this film have not been sped up in any way") at the start of the film? You get "Rize". If you don't have fun during this movie, then you just don't know what a good time is.

292. Revenge of the Sith (2005)


So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.

The most mature film of the Star Wars saga still brings a tear to my eye with that final shot above that mirrors the introduction of a certain farmboy in 1977. This movie ties up all of the loose ends while also including what is probably the greatest sword fight scene of all time as the viewers are treated to the demise of Anakin Skywalker and the birth of Darth Vader. I freakin' love these movies, and I hope I never stop loving them!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

291. Why We Fight (2005)


I think we fight because basically not enough people are standing up saying, "I'm not doing this anymore."

At church, school, and home children are taught from an early age that it is wrong to hurt (and certainly to kill) others. For this reason, most children have one of their earliest logical dilemmas when these same teachers attempt to explain the necessity of war. There are many different methods but nearly all attempts at an explanation end with the words " defend our freedom." This certainly was a valid reason in 1776 and a few other times in our country's 235 year history, but it is becoming quite a stretch. The United States' constant state of war for the past fifty years has had very little to do with defending your freedom to worship, speak, or live the way you wish.

World War II was a turning point in history not only because the world stood up to the axis of evil, but also because it showed many people just how profitable war could be. Since then, the military-industrial complex has entrenched itself in our country to an extent that every congressional district depends on it in some way for economic stability. For this reason, it is to our advantage to remain at war. That may sound like a pretty bold statement, but it is not really a controversial one, simply one that a lot of wealthy people would rather you not dwell on. As we move further away from the end of the draft, this will only intensify as there will be very few people in leadership positions that actually have any idea what it is like to serve in the military or have family members who serve.

As long as we blindly support war through our votes, our military, and our 401k's, we will be stuck with it, but don't kid yourselves... War has nothing to do with freedom, for us, or for the poor countries we invade...

Monday, April 11, 2011

290. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2005)


We do a lot of bad things to animals because we don't believe that they feel anything. They're afraid of death; they're afraid of injury; they're afraid of being alone... like us.

I'm not sure whether 2005 was the year that documentaries starting getting really good or it was the year that I discovered how awesome a nonfiction film could be. Either way, four of my next five movies are documentaries starting with one that really showed me how unique a doc could be. This is the simple story of a homeless musician who has taken it upon himself to be the caretaker of a flock of parrots that has taken up residence in San Francisco. That may sound a little boring, but I have found that one can learn more about what it means to be human from the simplest of situations. If you aren't touched by this one, then you probably shouldn't be wasting your time with my blog.

289. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)


-It is important to note that suddenly, and against all probability, a Sperm Whale had been called into existence, several miles above the surface of an alien planet and since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity. This is what it thought, as it fell:
-Ahhh! Woooh! What's happening? Who am I? Why am I here? What's my purpose in life? What do I mean by who am I? Okay okay, calm down calm down get a grip now. Ooh, this is an interesting sensation. What is it? Its a sort of tingling in my... well I suppose I better start finding names for things. Lets call it a... tail! Yeah! Tail! And hey, what's this roaring sound, whooshing past what I'm suddenly gonna call my head? Wind! Is that a good name? It'll do. Yeah, this is really exciting. I'm dizzy with anticipation! Or is it the wind? There's an awful lot of that now isn't it? And what's this thing coming toward me very fast? So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like 'Ow', 'Ownge', 'Round', 'Ground'! That's it! Ground! Ha! I wonder if it'll be friends with me? Hello Ground!

Very rarely does a movie make me want to read, but if this series of books is anything like this movie (and I'm sure they are), I have got to read them one day. Add to that the adorable Zooey Deschanel and a robot that is played by Warwick Davis (Wicket, Willow, etc.) and voiced by Alan Rickman, and you have the makings of one of the funniest and all-around most entertaining sci-fi movies ever made.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

288. Junebug (2005)


God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to let you stay that way.

"Junebug", or how it is known around my house, "How Will learned to stop worrying and love Amy Adams." There have been other actors and actresses whose careers have debuted during my lifetime, but none have blown me away like this. Amy Adams' innocent young mother-to-be is such a captivating role that it completely owns the rest of the movie. "Junebug" is actually about a young man's return home to the mountains of North Carolina, which was what initially drew me to the film. Don't be fooled though, whether the filmmakers meant to or not, this was the moment where the world noticed the greatness that would become Giselle, Julia, and Marky Mark's girlfriend.

287. Serenity (2005)


-But it ain't all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flying is? Well, I suppose you do, since you already know what I'm about to say.
-I do. But I like to hear you say it.
-Love. You can learn all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as a turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurtin' before she keels. Makes her a home.

I am embarassed at how late I became a devoted Browncoat. I didn't see a single episode of Firefly while it was on TV, and I missed this movie when it was in the theater. Being the super-movie-nerd that I am though, I was pretty quick to rent it probably the Friday before it came out on DVD (thanks East Coast!). I was hooked right off the bat, but I felt like I was missing something. I borrowed Brian's dvds of the 13 episode Firefly series and my mind was officially blown. Rewatching the movie afterwards literally brought tears to my eyes. This was truly a situation in which the shows creators did their absolutely best with the crappy deal that FOX tv dealt them.

As for the movie, it ranks behind only that galaxy far, far away and a long time ago as the greatest space western of all time. Every character is pitch perfect and Joss Whedon's script is at the same time witty, moving, and thrilling. If you have never experienced the greatness of Firefly/Serenity, then all I have to say is "you're welcome". I truly envy anyone who gets to watch these fourteen pieces of entertainment bliss for the first time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

286. The Constant Gardener (2005)


I only give the food to the women, Mr. Black. Women make the homes, men just make wars... and hooch. Adam was God's first draft - He got it right with Eve. Tell that to your readers, Mr. Black.

This movie makes me wonder two things:
1. Whatever happened to Rachel Weisz? She is a beautiful and talented actress that simply does do enough quality work.
2. Why doesn't Fernando Meirelles make more movies for large audience? He has made three outstanding movies in the past ten years and (according to spends the rest of his time making Brazilian television. I get being true to your homeland, but a talent like this should not be squandered!

Friday, April 8, 2011

285. Before Sunset (2004)


I feel like if someone were to touch me, I'd dissolve into molecules.

My love for all things Richard Linklater has been well documented on this blog, and he is at his best when he is filming people talking (especially Ethan Hawke talking, especially when he is talking with Julie Delpy). This is a sequel to the amazing "Before Sunrise" in which Hawke's Jesse spends an evening walking the streets of Vienna with Celine. I guess Linklater felt that the constraints weren't quite strict enough for that film, so for the sequel Jesse and Celine spend an afternoon walking and talking through the streets of Paris, only this time the movie is filmed in "real" time. You read that right, this movie is 80 minutes of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke walking around the streets of Paris talking with very few cuts and nothing else, and it was (by far!) my favorite movie of 2004. The final scene of this movie contains more beautiful romance than any month of programing on the Lifetime and Hallmark channels combined.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

284. Born into Brothels (2004)


There is nothing called hope in my future.

It is very common for a documentary to tell a little-known story of an opressed group of people. What makes this film unique is that it is not really about the plight of its young subjects. Instead, it humanizes them to a point otherwise impossible in this medium by making a movie about their newfound love for photography. One of the most moving stories you will ever encounter at the movies.

283. The Chorus (2004)


-Do you have children?
-No. Well, yes, I have 60.

"Mr. Holland's Opus", "Sister Act", "Music of the Heart"... meh, meh, meh. If I want to see a great film about young people learning about themselves and enriching themselves through music, I'll stick with this little French film.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

282. Dogville (2004)


-Rapists and murders may be the victims according to you, but I, I call them dogs. And if they're lapping up their own vomit, the only way to stop them is with a lash.
-But dogs only obey their own nature, so why shouldn't we forgive them?
-Dogs can be taught many useful things, but not if we forgive them every time they obey their own nature.

You probably won't like this movie. I recommend it on a VERY rare basis to those who have already shown their acceptance to the films of Lars von Trier. This film kicked off his trilogy entitled "USA - Land of Opportunities". A second film will make it onto the 365 shortly, but as of this writing there are no plans to complete the trilogy. That should already tell you that Mr. von Trier is a pretty strange dude. Here goes my puny attempt at giving you an idea about this movie (because, let's be honest, you aren't gonna watch it):

Lars von Trier directs an amazing cast (Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Stellan Skarsgard, Chloe Sevigny, Udo Kier, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson) on a nearly blank stage with only sparse furnishings, imaginary walls, and chalk outlines on the ground for the buildings and roads. My guess is that von Trier used this technique to focus the viewers attention on his allegory representing the ruthless class warfare and disdain for the downtrodden that exists in the United States. Just in case you didn't get it though, the viewer is greeted with still images from Jacob Holdt's book "American Pictures" during the closing credits that show the reality of poverty. More on this topic, in a bit with the film "Manderlay".

Saturday, April 2, 2011

281. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)


-This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon.
-I know.
-What do we do?
-Enjoy it.

Only once every few years do you get a combination of pure greatness that results in such a uniquely awesome work of cinematic perfection. Michel Gondry had never directed a feature length film, but he was an innovator of music videos. His refreshing look at directing captured the amazing talents of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet with the solid base of pure quirkiness that is Charlie Kaufman's sci-fi/romance/comedy screenplay. This is the type of movie that makes me want to make films. I don't really think I would be overtly talented as a writer, director, or actor, but movies with this much creative emotional whallop simply invte the viewer into the experience to the extent that they truly wish they were a part of it.

280. Friday Night Lights (2004)


Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning. It's about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn't let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn't one more thing you could've done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman - you're perfect!

Probably my personal favorite sports movie of all time. The true story of the Permian High School Panthers as they beat the odds in Texas' highly competitive football world. This movie deals with many of the same conflicts that "Varsity Blues" did, but in a much less exploitive (and no less enjoyable) manner. Lucas Black, Derek Luke, Billy Bob Thornton, and even Tim McGraw turn in pitch perfect performances. I've always heard great things about the TV show, but I can't imagine it would come anywhere close to the greatness of this film.