Monday, December 14, 2009

Am I Excited to See "The Runaways"?

I'm serious here. Am I actually anticipating the release of the new Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning starring movie The Runaways? A movie about two people I know nothing about (Joan Jett and Cherie Currie) dealing with a relationship I had no idea was tumultuous? The Runaways as directed by Floria Sigismondi, who I have never heard of and therefore have no pre-formed high or low expectations over? There isn't even a trailer swaying my excitement, but I can feel it. This is what being excited feels like. 

Now that I've come up with an answer for the first question (the answer was "yes") I have yet another question: why am I excited to see The Runaways? I have only seen Kristen Stewart act competently on two occasions, with an almost invisibly small role in Into the Wild and a not-great but not-painful supporting role in Adventureland. No way do I consider myself a fan of her work. Nor do I think I've been pleased to see Dakota Fanning lead a film. 

Maybe I have a secret admiration for female rock stars? A deep-seeded love for biographies of any variety? I don't know. It's confusing me more than the time I went gaga for the Cherrybomb trailer. The Runaways is apparently being released on the 19th of next March. We should have more of a peek at what's really going on with the movie by then after Sundance has strained it. Right now we have this to go off on, and apparently I've been wowed:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Two Ten Best Films of 2000

The 00s. The first decade in which I was entirely conscious of the world around me. Wow. Time flies. I'm nearly two decades old, I have three children, millions in gambling debt... wow. What better way to handle ten years worth of films than with a writing partner? I present to you a series of best ofs by Abi Travis and myself. You'll get used to it. 

Warning: "best" isn't going to mean best. It's going to mean "favorite." These are the films we thought were best. So they're our favorites. And in some years? Some years we didn't even think many movies were great. We'll explain. Really. You'll get used to it.

1. Requiem for a Dream (Directed by Darren Aronofsky) - Eric

A lot of people say they will never watch this movie again in their entire lives, but in turn call it one of their favorites. I'm not on board with that. I think this movie should be watched once a year. Like It's a Wonderful Life but instead of holiday cheer it'll deck the halls with a dissuasion toward drug abuse. Requiem's power comes from the lead four performances for me: Burstyn, Leto, Connelly and Wayans. When these characters suffer I believe the actor is in torment. Each one of them is incredible in their wildly challenging roles. And Aronofsky throws handfuls of in-camera tricks and other bells and whistles like split-screen, slowed down frame rates, fish-eye lenses, managing to forward the story with them, keeping them from cheesiness. The best film about addiction I've seen, and my favorite by Aronofsky.

Abi Says: I knew this was going to be your number one.  I'm in an in-between camp, one that says this film is wonderful, and a definite favorite, but should be watched sparingly.  Less than once a year.  It should be more like the Olympics.  Or a presidential election.  I like the repeated bits. The dilating pupil and everything that goes with it.  Really shows how monotonous-but-still-kinda-awesome drugs can be.  Burstyn is my favorite, and the most sympathetic in my book.  Seeing her makes me want to cringe in disgust, but also sympathy. This film is well-crafted, sad.  I have a hard time enjoying all the sad.

1. In the Mood for Love (Directed by Wong Kar-Wai) - Abi

If I could pick one film from 2000 to watch over and over again, it'd be this.  Obviously.  It's my top pick.  What I like most of all is how this film manages to create plenty of suspense with a story that isn't too crazily unthinkable.  Two people are cheating on their respective spouses with one another, and the spouses find out.  I like the way that they find out.  I like their reaction to finding out; pretending that they're also having an affair, just to see what it's like.  I like all of the walking, and how the music gets super loud at important parts, and is nonexistent at other important parts.  I want these characters to be happy, but also want to like that they're innocent.  It makes me conflicted, but delightedly so.

Eric Says: I knew This was going to be on your list. I like the music in this a lot. It's always being repeated, but it's always worth being repeated, and creates familiar themes. Ojo Verde, and Yumeji's theme are my main dudes. All of the emotion is conveyed in such subtle, little moments, but it's strong. I think this is my favorite film by Wong Kar-Wai, but I've only seen Days of Being Wild aside, so that might not be saying much.

2. Requiem For a Dream - Abi

2. Titan A.E. (Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman) - Eric

I consider this to be the most underrated animated film of all time. It's directed by the man behind The Land Before Time, written by Joss Whedon and John August, and was voiced by Matt Damon, Janeane Garofalo, and Ron Perlman, among numerous others. An impressive list that came together to make an impressive movie. It's science-fiction at it's best: action-packed, post-apocalyptic, with a lot of heart. The jokes are all well-timed, and the suspenseful scenes are nerveracking. I want it to be more talked about than it is, which appears to be not at all.

Abi Says: Huh.  Wow.  Never have I seen this one.  Post-apocalyptic?!  So ahead of its time, both literally and film-genrically.  I'll watch it, and then I'll talk about only it forever until I stop.

3. Amores Perros  (Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) - Abi 

I'm a sucker for films that have spliced-together stories.  Much like this one.  It's got three separate stories that all come together with a car accident.  There is so much chaos - with a dying dog and guns and tearing up floorboards - but it all ends up coming together in a big picture way.  Like that dot painting.  I watched this film in the language lab at school trying to fulfill my necessary hours.  I was sitting in a ridiculously uncomfortable chair and wearing headphones that had been worn by thousands of gross college students, but still I was riveted.  Sympathetic characters is something I feel like I'm going to be bringing up a lot, and this film has them by the pounds.  This one made my heart race itself to infinity.

Eric Says: Well I hate this movie. Hate it so much it's on my list, too. And my favorite by Inarritu. I like Gael Garcia Bernal's storyline most of all, because it feels like it has the most depth. He's in love, with a girl and a dog, and he's willing to stab plenty of people over it. The storylines seem to all come together in a much more rewarding way here compared to his later film 21 Grams, and there seems to be a lot more going on in the character's minds than in Babel. Great movie.

3. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen) - Eric

I'm a fan of all the Coen Brothers works. Except The Ladykillers. I can't stand that movie. Unfortunately for O Brother I rank it at the very bottom of the Coen favorites. The goofiness of the characters doesn't always balance into funny. It's sometimes offputting. And the music isn't my cup of tea, either. I think the acting is fine, I just don't think the acting is given to the best roles. But the lowliest Coen Brothers movie still makes it onto the top of 2000, and that's why they are terrific.

Abi Says: I haven't seen this, either.  But I read the book.

4. The Emperor's New Groove (Directed by Mark Dindal) - Abi

This is the only film on my list that I actually saw in 2000.  In theaters, no less!  And as such, it holds a special place in my heart.  I'm almost positive this is the last non-Pixary Disney film that I enjoyed, and it's one of my favorites, as well.  The Emperor's New Groove got my Disney hopes up right before they were smashed to oblivion with Atlantis.  Spade and Goodman play off each other really well.  The writing makes me laugh, still.  I know this, because roommates of mine were watching it last weekend, and I chuckled from afar.  And the villain... Yzma (Kitt)! And her bumbling sidekick Kronk (Warburton).  They Also play off each other well!  This film is all about partnerships to me.  And llamas.  I just like a good llama film.

Eric Says: This is the second film on the list I saw in theaters, and one of two. Both animated. Cartoons were good when I was ten. And yes, until The Princess and the Frog blow our expectations out of the bayou we will look upon New Groove as one of those last few, proud members of the Disney old guard.

4. The Emperor's New Groove - Eric

5. Amores Perros (Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) - Eric

5. Almost Famous (Directed by Cameron Crowe) - Abi

I didn't see this film until 2009.  Until this very day, in fact.  And maybe it's riding high in the "recently watched" part of my brain, but for now it belongs here.  I liked the opening credits.  I always appreciate when a film goes out of its way to make the opening credits enjoyable.  These were.  Fugit was apparently 18 during filming; a fact around which my head simply will not wrap.  He looks every day of the 15 years of his character.  Frances McDormand plays a great concerned and well-educated mother, and Zooey Deschanel is an excellent brat.  And P-Hoff is in this!  I almost forgot about him, but he's good.  Billy Crudup's role as Russell Hammond is my favorite, though.  He plays it to the nines.  It made me want to be a rock star.  It made me want to take acid.

Eric Says: I myself don't like this movie much. It's okay. I like Billy Crudup most, too, and I think there are fun moments between the band and the boy, but there's so much focus on the awful Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), and there are a lot of unbelievable moments that are supposed to be played as reality. I and Almost Famous do not gel.

6. Best in Show (Directed by Christopher Guest) - Eric

I can't remember if I saw this first, or A Mighty Wind first, but whichever sparked my interest in mockumentaries. I couldn't get enough of them. I only Really like four, all by Christopher Guest and his troupe, but I can't get enough of them. Best in Show is possibly one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. They are masters at improvisation. Every line is said with a ridiculous earnesty that makes me fear these people actually do walk the Earth outside of the film. Thank goodness they don't, and only exist to make me laugh.

Abi Says: Mockumentaries are sometimes brilliant, and other times just painful. Christopher Guest makes 'em brilliant.  Again, I haven't seen this, but I will never deny my extreme appreciation for his writing and acting contributions in This is Spinal Tap.  He's a mockuartist.  While we're mentioning mention-worthy mockumentaries, I want to say I enjoyed Akel's Chalk, and also that Summer Heights High gets at least honorably mentioned.

6. Chocolat (Directed by Lasse Hallstrom)

It's the stereotypical heterosexual woman in me that likes this one.  Chocolate.  Johnny Depp. That right there gets the attention of about 96% of all females.  Add some Gypsies to the mix, and you've got yourself a gem.  This film is like watching a two-hour long Snickers commercial, but with more emotional payback.  I liked the vibe.  I wish it had been more brightly-colored.  I remember feeling it was kind of washed-out.  But maybe Jeunet has lured me into this false sense of all things French having to be garish.  Garish might be too harsh.  Anyway.  Chocolat.

Eric Says: I haven't seen Chocolat, but I've heard from many girls that it's a great movie. I like Johnny Depp, and I like chocolate, so I think I'd enjoy this. What did the homosexual woman in you think of Chocolat?

She was also appeased.  Everyone likes chocolate.  Everyone likes Johnny Depp.

7. In the Mood for Love (Directed by Wong Kar-Wai) - Eric

7. The Perfect Storm (Directed by Wolfgang Petersen) - Abi


You know what else women like?  George Clooney.  George Clooney, and a sad ending with Mark Wahlberg floating in the middle of the ocean.  And fish.  This film has them all!  It's the story of a swordfish gettin' team, which gets stuck in this huge storm.  There's a lot of exposition, because audiences have to actually care about the men on the boat, as well as their landlubber friends and loved ones.  I liked this film, because I got to kick my younger siblings out of the room while I watched it due to its rating, and that made me feel cool.  But the film itself made me sad.  And I watched it on vacation.  A vacation that involved fishing.  Probably not a good idea. More film stuff... in the days before shows like Deadliest Catch, audiences probably didn't realize how much danger is actually involved in being in a fishing boat.  It's a lot.  This film did a good job of showing all the danger, I think.  One guy gets a huge fish hook stuck in his hand! Films with dangerous water always make me feel uneasy, and this one was no different.  Also, I should mention that this is based on a book, which is a creative nonfiction story.  That means it actually kind of happened, which is sad.  (PS: I should also mention that Chocolat was a book first. A fiction book.  Here's to you, literary fans).

Eric Says: We're finally getting some diversity in this list, because I've never seen this movie either. I've watched parts on the television, and remember catching a glimpse when it was in theaters, but I normally don't like weather movies, and I definitely don't like tales of heroism. This would probably be off my list, had I seen it. It's very telling that it's on yours.

I'll say.  It's also very telling that it's not on yours.

8. Memento (Directed by Christopher Nolan) - Eric

When I first saw this movie I thought it was So Cool. Guy Pearce is a total badass, getting justice for something he doesn't fully understand. The backwards narrative structure was unlike anything I'd seen before. This was prior Following, or Pulp Fiction. Fractured narrative was awesome. The second time I watched it, knowing the twist ending, and story style, I liked it even more. The best scene, for me, is when Moss leaves the house after screaming her head off, and... well, you haven't seen this, Abi, so I shouldn't spoil it. But that part's great.

Abi Says: What?!  Who said I haven't seen this?  From whom are you getting your information?

Wait... you have? Have we discussed it?

Abi Says: No. No, I haven't. No worries.


Abi Says: Having (again) not seen this, there's not much I can say.  A backwards narrative structure is something I've applauded e'er since that one episode of Seinfeld.  And a twist ending?!  I can hardly contain my excitement.  I've tried checking this out at the library, but it's been unavailable every time I've gone to snatch it up.  Wouldn't you know it.

8. X-Men (Directed by Bryan Singer) - Abi

It feels good to be at number 8 already.  The fact that my number 8 is X-Men feels less good.  I watched this with a bunch of teenagers, I think.  Teenagers who wished they had super powers. This film just leaves me feeling "ehhh" whenever I think about it.  I see it as the first in a long line of the comic book films we keep getting, and I don't feel it was done nearly as well as, say... Watchmen.  Duh.  I liked Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Didn't like Anna Paquin or even Halle Berry much. Felt really uncomfortable with Mystique.

Eric Says: X-Men is my number nine. And I like it. I think it's deserving of this list, to a degree. More so I think X2 should be on a year's end list, and since it's not on my later lists this can serve as a place-holder for its sequel. Plus, without this one there wouldn't be the sequel. You didn't like Hugh Jackman? Or James Marsden? Yeah, they weren't so great. X-Men is more about the message than the movie, too. The X-Men are a fantastic group of superheroes, and of all the other superhero franchises sparked this is one of the best handled in terms of source material faith, and well-made-ness.

9. X-Men - Eric

9. Unbreakable (Directed by M. Night Shyamalan) - Abi

Sixth Sense was the very first "scary" movie I ever watched.  I don't know why I put scary in quotes, because I was actually very scared by it.  Scary.  There.  As a result, M. Night Shyamalan was able to captivate me with anything he made, so long as Bruce Willis played the lead.  The first thing I think about with this film is the shot over young Samuel Jackson's head when he opens up his first comic book, and the camera spins around one way, while he spins the book around the other way.  The younger me was enthralled by that.  I also really like that color that means Samuel Jackson is involved.  You know the one.  Oh yeah!  Remember when the son pulls a Gun on Bruce?!  What a messed-kid!  As a whole, this film left me partially shaken (due to the dangerous water), but overall unimpressed.  Maybe because it was comic book-y?  Do I really just not like comic book films?  We've discussed this film before, and you made a good point about something.  Something about the ending, like how dumb it was that he showed his kid that newspaper article, revealing his "superhero" identity.

Eric Says: It is a sad, sad world where we have to put films that have left us "unimpressed" in our ten favorite films of any year. I don't remember what I said about the ending. I don't remember talking much about this movie, except when I've told people how chilling Jackson's broken baby body is at the start of the movie. I too am overall unimpressed with Unbreakable, because it has a very strong story, and Bruce Willis is pretty good in it, but it eats up time with his exercise routines and sad, blue shots of his child.

Yup.  Yup.  Broken Bodied Baby is more chilling than an old Benjamin Button Baby any day.

10. Traffic (Directed by Steven Soderbergh) - Eric

2000 was a good year for anti-addict films. This was more of an anti-dealer, really. The War on Drugs was strong in our minds back then. A little less realistic than the War on Terror, but a little more realistic than the War on Crime. Soderbergh made the drug war feel entirely unbeatable. He didn't present it in a hopeless sort of way, he drew it out realistically. Troublesome and real. It's Topher Grace's best role. Benicio del Toro's, too. Actually, I don't like him in anything but Traffic. It's one of my favorite Soderbergh films. 2000 was a good year for favorites for certain directors. This weaves a bunch of great, diverse stories together in a less experimental way than Amores Perros, but in a more satisfying way, I think.

Abi Says: Good. Good; I'm glad for it. Haaaaven't seen it.

10. Miss Congeniality (Directed by Donald Petrie) - Abi

This film is kind of a guilty pleasure.  I'm allowing it on this list mostly because it made me laugh as a young gal.  But it's number ten, so keep that in mind.  Filmically speaking, this doesn't have much going for it.  It's not particularly well-shot, nor is Bullock's character very appealing.  Less so before the make-over, but still not much overall.  The other Miss State's are expectedly banal and flighty.  Annoyingly so.  I keep confusing this with Two Weeks Notice (sic).  Not a good sign.  I don't like the fact that there's a love interest.  You know what I still like about Miss Congeniality?  Michael Caine.

Eric Says: Michael Caine should be an argument in court. "How do you plead?/Michael Caine." Then you don't have to go to prison because everyone is busy thinking of how charming an actor he is, and of all his fantastic roles. Remember that picture I used for my Inception cast post? When he was young and dashing? Boy is Michael Caine stupendous. But yeah, Miss Congeniality sucks. I think I smiled at some of it when I watched it with my Mom, and Bullock's sidekick seemed like a nice guy when I was younger, but now the whole lot of them seem like huge wastes of film. A fitting end to 2000.

I wish all the films of 2000 were just Michael Caine.

Eric Says: Me too. Me too.

Written by Abi Travis and Eric T. Voigt (Dictated but not read)

The Five Best Trailers of 2009

A good trailer should make you want to go see that movie instead of the movie you came to see, or shut the internet off and get to the nearest theater. I like a trailer to give you a hint of what tone to expect, and a glimpse at the story, but refrain from spelling it all out. I'm looking at you, Funny People trailer. My favorite trailers use the music and sounds to get an emotional response. Simple pop songs rarely do. My favorite trailers have images I've never seen before. It intrigues. Excites. Enthralls. Etc.

Anyway, I'm doing trailers for movies that came out in 2009. The trailers may have debuted in 2008, but I can't keep track of that sort of thing. I'm busy. Busy watching trailers. 

1. Watchmen

I watched this before The Dark Knight and it re-calibrated my heart's beat. The remixed Billy Corgan matched the dark tone perfectly. All of the shots had an unbridled intensity to them. It felt so confident in what it was presenting. None of the super heroes looked familiar, so I was itching to find out what Watchmen were all about, and why I'd never heard of it before, on top of the film looking awesome.

2. Observe and Report

This trailer runs on hutzpah. It's so well paced, too. We're hooked by the flasher, who the lead is and exactly how the lead sees the world is introduced a few seconds later, and then it takes off like a rocket. A firecracker rocket. Jokes cross with violence cross with surprising crudeness. In the last fourth the shots are incredible, and they cut so fast, and the music blends so well... it's like seeing Obama get elected all over again.

3. Moon

Clint Mansell's score steals the show. Sam Rockwell steals what's left. The moon sets can have whatever's around after that. Plus, there's a mystery set up. Who is that other Sam Rockwell. Why is Sam Rockwell crying? Can I have a beard like that? Did they really film on the moon? It got me wondering, and eventually I went to a theater and learned the answers to each of these questions. Half worth it. Such is the power of the trailer.

4. A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers have figured out how to sell a film. This. This is the way you sell a film. Awesome. My favorite trailer of these five favorite trailers of the year. I watched it for the first time at work, and I think I wrote about it then, too. I could have watched it ten times after. Ended up hitting the six-time mark by the end of the day. I knew next to nothing about the movie and I wanted to see it more than any other advertised. Magnetic.

5. A Single Man

With kind of a similar vibe to the similarly-named A Serious Man this trailer is one of the most inspired, and attention grabbing I've yet seen. The score is haunting as it punches along with each shot, the imagery growing more compelling and alluring as the seconds tick. The ticking is a nice touch, too. I haven't had a chance to see the movie yet. It's getting a limited release tomorrow, and I'm pretty sure Chicago isn't an opening location. But I'm gonna try to see it. Thanks, trailer.

Honorable mentions include The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, which I desperately wanted to see but has never come near enough. It looks charmingly weird, and I didn't understand its appeal until the second viewing. Antichrist was a movie with a great trailer that turned out to undersell the film. What is possibly the coolest trailer, and also gives away most of the best moments in the movie, was for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Calls New Orleans. The movie was just okay, but the trailer is fantastic. 

 - Eric T. Voigt, Thinks He'll Do a Best of 2000s for Each Year... For Fun!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Eric Reviews Everything He's Ever Seen (Numbers 700, 720, 740, 760, and 780)

So I can't keep up with this series. So what? You aren't trying to review every movie you've ever seen, are you? Well? Are you? And if you are, are you managing to write five reviews daily? You are? Jeez... this really isn't going as I planned. This batch is a good batch. I either remember a lot, or nothing, about each of them. Guess which is which and you win a prize.

700. Cats Don't Dance (Directed by Mark Dindal)

I don't remember anything about Cats Don't Dance. Okay, I remember the lead was a cat, and he had a cat love interest with white fur, and there were other animals, and a whale? There may have been a stage production there were planning. Or it took place in a dance hall. I think it was set up to take place in the 1920s. 

I've read up on it, and have concluded Cats... Dance was a musical, and it was set in the late 30s.

I distinctly remember playing it on TV and being disinterested. Un-enthused to have it in my home. It didn't terrify me, and it didn't satisfy me, so it's joining the ranks of animated 90s movies I shouldn't have bothered watching in the first place. They are stacking. 

What? I can't remember it. I really can't. I can't think of two good things to say about the movie. This could be the least worthwhile review I've yet written, but that's the cost of seeing movies once or twice when you were seven. Me, not you.

720. James and the Giant Peach (Directed by Henry Selick)

This isn't Tim Burton's James and the Giant Peach. I've heard people get mixed up over this, and I'll set that straight right here and now: Henry Selick directed James and the Giant Peach, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Coraline, and Tim Burton did not. Henry Selick, who may have the worst haircut in the movie world. Trust me. Find a picture. Any picture will do. I think he's worn his hair in the same style since the 80s. The same terrible style. 

I used to fancy myself an artist. I drew constantly. I knew I was going to be an animator when I grew up, and have a very popular television show on Nickelodeon, or better: Cartoon Network. Then the world beat me down. My doodles were called 'no good' and 'dirty rotten' by my peers, and I figured out on my own that I have no eye for consistency. I gave up. But when James and the Giant Peach came out I was fully on board the animation train, and Had to see it not for the story, but for the character designs. Lane Smith, children's book illustrator, was concept designer behind James and his talent has no boundary between two- and three-dimensions.

Not much of the story has stayed with me. The opening live-action with the cloud rhino killing off James' parents is what I recall most vividly, because it was the scariest. Next would be the underwater scene with the ghost pirates, but that's because that scared me, too. I don't know if I liked the movie for anything other than the awesome artwork and animation if the only parts I remember terrified me. That's okay, because at six I didn't need an engaging story to keep me engaged. The scuttling and bouncing clay bugs were entrancing purely through physical presence. 

740. The Bothersome Man (Directed by Jens Lien)

The Bothersome Man exists in a weird split between soul-crushingly depressing and hilarious. It's surreal, about a man finding himself in a generically perfect, inescapable purgatory. Everything he could want is at his fingertips, but lacks the soul he was familiar with in the real world. The world is a bit like that in Wristcutters: A Love Story, with grays and blues and whites assisting in the cleansing of joy from the environments, but the tone of the film is much more contemplative, less silly. The style works wonders with the story.

The comedy is dry and much of the time subtle. Many of the gags are visual, but never slap-sticky. Small looks and barely perceived hand motions carry the brunt of the jokes, with dialogue finding it's wit with convoluted explanations and misconceptions. The direction is fantastic, as it melds dark, gloomy material with a cheekiness that keeps the film causing laughter instead of sobbing tears, which would not be hard to see happening in the hands of someone other than Jens Lien. 

For a film with such little ever really going on, and lengthy segments without dialogue all of the actors are still personable and charming. The titular bothersome man plays the role so earnestly, and believably. Every time he makes a new discovery it felt like he really was unraveling the truth behind a horrible mystery. Does that make sense? It felt like he truly had been set in purgatory, and he went about his days naturally with cameras rolling.

I watched The Bothersome Man because my Mom happened to have it home from the library. I knew nothing about it before watching, aside from my Mom telling me I might like it. A very pleasant surprise. Another of Norway's little gems. You know Norway and its gems. 

760. A Very Long Engagement (Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

When I press people to think of Jean-Pierre Jeunet they normally wind up mentioning Amelie, or how great of a disaster his Alien was. What I wish everyone would be thinking about every moment of their day is Jeunet's 2004 film A Very Long Engagement, one of my top ten favorite films, and in my top five favorite wartime movies. I think it overachieves at every aspect of filmmaking. It has incredible cinematography, every shot is gorgeous, the universe is crafted perfectly, crisp pacing for a film over two hours long, wit-filled writing, performances with so much love and heart put into them I'd be hard pressed to find a single character I didn't like, even if they were meant to be hated, and such a touching, convoluted-yet-satisfying story that by the end of it, after all that time, I wanted the engagement to have lasted much longer. If the film had lasted for six hours it would still be too short.

One of its greatest accomplishments is how many genres it straddles, and how well it straddles them all. At the start I thought it was going to be a sweet fluffy romantic drama. Then it bares its fangs and turns into a dark comedy. It morphs again into a war epic. Then again into a murder mystery. Never does it lose its emotional core, and none of the films components feel at odds with the specific styles, constantly changing though they are. There really is enough to stretch into five separate films, but Jeunet is smart, and balled them all into one. And it's amazing. More than a five on a five star scale, much higher than a 10 if rating from 1 to 10. 

780. The Bicycle Thief (Directed by Vittorio De Sica)

Gigantic props to The Bicycle Thief for making Italian sound like the ugliest language on the planet. When Lamberto Maggiroani isn't busy chasing after bicycle thieves or failing at menial tasks his ears are filled with the sound of exasperated, shouted Italian voices. So on top of watching the plight of a man I didn't care about do things I wasn't interested in I had to listen to what hell must sound like. 

Probably more disagreeable than my opinion of The Deer Hunter is my vendetta against The Bicycle Thief. I've watched it twice and haven't had a change of heart, big or small. I dislike this movie. It isn't a passing sort of "didn't care for it," it's a very angry "why does everyone care about this so much?" I get that it's an unflinching look at post-war Italy, and the use of non-professional actors portraying such realistic problems was revolutionary at the time but I don't see how that should give it a free pass into Classics territory.

This is a personal problem. Thousands of Thief defenders will proudly stand beside the story, the acting, and the lot of it. I don't like any of it. The main character is a dolt. Sure, times are tough for him, but times are tough for everyone, and times are tough for much more interesting people. The guy is a failure as a sign paster, and as a father, but mostly as a character I could pay any serious attention to. The story is powerful, sure, and the family's livelihood is at stake, but I didn't see it told in a way I could support. 

I haven't seen any other Italian neo-realism, so I'm not sure if I'd have a problem with the entire genre, or just this film. Maybe my sensibilities were unable to compromise in the face of De Sica's. It could be that I'm unfeeling for idiots and their impressionable children. I could ponder my distain for The Bicycle Thief all night, and hear perfectly reasonable arguments for the film for a month yet I still would not be moved. I don't like The Bicycle Thief.

 - Eric T. Voigt, XOXO

Eric Reviews Everything He's Ever Seen (Numbers 600, 620, 640, 660 and 680)

Okay. Hiatus over. It isn't good for you, and it isn't good for me, when everything I've ever seen continues to go unreviewed. Not on my watch! A few new movies added to the list over the weekend took the place of more errors already on the list, so I think my overall total movies watched is still 1,067. Convenient. 

600. Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Directed by Tim Burton)

Tim Burton is kind of an eclectic director for having such a definitive style. More he's ignored when a film doesn't carry his more familiar darkness mixing with innocence themes, or star Johnny Depp. Everyone knows he made Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and many think he directed The Nightmare Before Christmas. It isn't often I remember he's responsible for the Planet of the Apes remake or Sleepy Hollow, and the movies he directed I like most, Big Fish, Ed Wood and this, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, are only grouped in with his more Tim Burton-y works on IMDb lists. This is a roundabout way to complain that emo kids (do they still exist?) and misanthropes only give credit to Burton when creepy black-clad losers are prancing around. I'm not into that Burton. I like it weird, but I don't like it... lonely? Anyway, Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Pee Wee makes a fat guy chew tainted gum, almost sleeps with a woman in a stone age-styled pit stop, has a run-in with Large Marge, lights a match and is surrounded by beasts stricken with taxidermy, and rides his bike in one of the coolest ways I've ever imitated. I remember all of this, but I don't remember what the plot was. There was a story. I mean, he was on the road for some reason. I have no clue why. I liked it. I think I watched at least four times when I was a child. I really liked it. Pee Wee was hilarious. I never saw his show, but I think that's probably for the better. Saves the mystique of the movie.

620. Slacker (Directed by Richard Linklater)

It's really interesting to look at this movie, compare it to the world I grew up around in the 90s, and compare this film to that, seeing just how perfect Linklater captured everything I could have been a part of had I been born a decade earlier. Slacker doesn't have a plot, and it hardly has a concept, it's just an honest look at Generation X from the eyes of one of their own. 

The characters and stories that run through the movie are all a little bit strange, but feel a whole lot true. No-dialogue traveling scenes break up the lengthy all-dialogue scenes so as to never have the film bogged down in one camp. It's a well-acted, well-paced slice of life. 

I think this is Linklater's best film, and it's his first. Dazed and Confused comes close to matching it, but there is so much raw humanity in Slacker, relatable yet perplexing, that it seems he will never be able to reach those levels again. 

640. Airplane! (Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker)

The godfather of all parody. Has a spoof movie since been as zany, or as innocently politically incorrect, or as all around hilarious? It's debatable, but for me the answer is no way. Airplane! was the first comedy to shock me. There's an irreverence to it which keeps the constant stream of absurdity grounded somehow. 

It may have helped that I didn't understand anything they were spoofing. Parodies these days draw so directly from what they're mocking that they're getting to be the movies they're making fun of, with a fart thrown in, or a car running over a character. Airplane! doesn't suffer from this. It doesn't lean on other movies, it leans on strong writing and excellent timing from its performers. 

If other parodies took the time to learn from Airplane! we wouldn't be drowning in the slime created by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Airplane! isn't a breath of fresh air because it came out decades before what we have now. It's a wonderful gem from ages past. I'm glad it remains one of those most widely praised American comedies I can actually agree with.

660. Monkey Business (Directed by Norman Z. McLeod)

I'd watched a few Three Stooges shorts before I got around to watching The Marx Brothers and I hated the Three Stooges. I knew The Marx Brothers were another group of grown men who found themselves in wacky premises making hijinks happen, so by my reasoning I had to be wary. Old comedies seemed stilted and campy to me at the time. I was in middle school. I hadn't given many a chance. Giving The Marx Brothers a chance was ultimately one of the best filmic decisions I've ever made.

The Marx Brothers are the greatest comedic actors to walk the Earth between the 20s to the 40s. No exceptions. They kill. They can draw a single joke out for five minutes, and it won't lose its charm or its hilarity. The Marx Brothers are three of the most well-endowed humorists ever, comedically, and sure, Zeppo doesn't have any of Chico, Groucho or Harpo's abilities, but he's still there, and I give him a pass. 

Having said all that I don't remember what Monkey Business is about. I think this is the one with the "ran out of fuel, had to go back" bit. I know it came out before A Night in Casablanca, the sign of their declining prowess in 1941, so Business is okay in my book. I think their work in the 20s was the height of their awesomeness, and this falls a few years shy of that. I trust I laughed. 

680. In Memory of My Father (Directed by Christopher Jaymes)

Now this is an odd one. I saw this at the Waterfront Film Festival my first year as a volunteer and was blown away by it. I went into it knowing it was a comedy about a dead father, and that's it. No idea who was in it, no idea who had written or directed it. The festival opened my eyes to how great it can be to walk blindly into a screening, because without any expectations it is much easier to be impressed and disappointed. No pre-judgments. Huzzah!

I watched it twice in two days. That's once a day! My reaction to it the second time was a less enthusiastic one. The cast's stellar delivery, and the hilarious writing felt kind of amateur and trying-too-hard when I watched it again. I laughed so hard I was crying when I first say it. I chuckled at the familiar lines the next time. So either this movie has absolutely no staying power as a film, and should never be viewed repeatedly, or my moods were drastically different between days. 

This is on my list of movies to buy, but now that I've written this I think maybe I need to view it a third time before making any brash decisions. Judy Greer was great in it both times, and I think the main three characters, played by Jeremy Sisto, Christopher Jaymes (writer and director as well) and Matt Keeslar, were interesting, if not as funny, the time yonder. Yeah, I'm going to give this another shot. Thrice shot. 

My life is empty without Baby Gorgeous. Her absence helped me find the strength to finish this. I'll try to be a good seriesest. I swear. 

 - Eric T. Voigt

Eric Reviews Everything He's Ever Seen (Numbers 500, 520, 540, 560, and 580)

Hellraiser and License to Kill were almost 2/5 of this post. I must have been lax when I started listing. I'm positive I've never watched License to Kill and think I mistook it for one of Pierce Brosnan's Bonds. One Monsterfest I tried watching Hellraiser, but I got grossed out and disturbed and missed what were probably important chunks of story flipping between channels. This list has been altered, and films I've actually seen were brought in. Whenever I find mistakes like this I'll pull movies from the bottom of the list and replace the un-watched, like I did with Police Academy and Dirty Dancing. My count's back up to 1,067. No worries.

500. Wayne's World 2 (Directed by Stephen Surjik)

Mike Myers, how far ye have fallen. I bought his Austin Powers movies because I remember Myers fondly, not Powers. I should have been buying Wayne’s World. Wayne is a much funnier, likeable character, and paired with Dana Carvey’s Garth he was hysterical. I worried the sequel, this movie, wouldn’t live up to the standards set in the first one, but if anything it meets and surpasses.

Now, I’m not what you’d call a “fan of heavy metal or even pseudo-heavy metal,” but I can understand wanting to be after a sit-down with Wayne’s World 2. The level of Wayne’s grit in creating the best rock festival in the world is endearing. Hard rock is handled with an understanding and care that makes even the die-hardest techno junkie’s heart melt for the rockers. 

Everything is accessible, when so many of my senses are reeling against it. Even when the humor is at its most juvenile it’s so earnest I throw all caution to the wind and smile until my lips want to rip. Wayne’s World 2 is one of my favorite buddy movies, demonstrating the essence of comedy, love of music, and friendship.

520. The Addams Family (Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld)

I remember watching the Addams Family Vacation at my house. My Grandfather snuck out of the house, crept over beneath the window and popped his head up, shouting. He nearly scared me to death. Think, a seven year old going into cardiac arrest, and it being all his Grandpa’s fault. That’s the most interesting memory I have of any Addams Family movie. 

The Addams Family movie(s) weren’t as funny as they tried to be, or as creepy as they could have been if they’d stuck to the source material. They fell into this kind of funky purgatory. Not a good funk, a lame funk. The first Casper movie suffered from the same problems. It aspired to be spooky, but turned out dusty and disgusting. Dusty isn’t an adjective often applied to tone. Its the only word I can think of. 

Morticia and Gomez had this running gag where Gomez would become incredibly horny, and start kissing his wife’s arm, I think. I know there was a sexual undercurrent that I understood at my young age, but didn’t approve of. It was disconcerting. If I’m a prude now I was even more of a prude then. I blame the German and Puritan blood what flows through me.

If Addams Family had any humor it flew right over my head. I think I remember there being jokes. I don’t remember laughing. If the movie was too mature, or just a bad movie I’m not totally sure of. I supposed it left some kind of impact if I’m using four paragraphs to talk about it. 

540. Black Sabbath (Directed by Mario Bava)

The Boris Karloff hosted Black Sabbath is a strange beast. I saw it at my first Music Box Massacre, at threeish in the morning. It took three Italian horror shorts and compiled them into an anthology. All of the actors were dubbed over in English except for Boris, who gave brief introductions before each short. He starred as a vampire in the longest and most boring short. The other two felt like average Twilight Zone episodes. I didn’t like it. Why did they subject us to such blah filmmaking? 

Whether or not the shorts were intended to be compiled as an anthology still confuses me. The English dubbing appeared to take liberties with the stories, with dialogue not always matching up with the visuals. Whole chunks of exposition felt tacked on to help slower audience members. It was one of the least entertaining films in the twenty-four hours and ill placed for an audience who’d been awake for seventeen hours and at least nine more to go. 

560. Scarface (Directed by Howard Hawks)

Now I know where “the world is yours” comes from! One more reference to notch into the bedpost. 

Hopefully the poster has lead you to understand I’m referring to the 1932 Howard Hawks film, not the Brian DePalma/Al Pacino Scarface. I haven’t seen that Scarface. The only DePalma movie I’ve liked is Phantom of the Paradise, so I don’t have much interest in checking out the remake, if that’s what it’s considered. Judging from what I know about both there isn’t much similar ground between the two. 

Hawks’ take was surprisingly comedic. Like, laugh out loud comedic. I haven’t seen a gangster movie mix humor and violence quite like Scarface. There’s a character, Angelo, who was the equivalent of a murderous Chico Marx. Hilarious. Paul Muni outdoes himself on the funny, too. He’s a greedy, evil bastard, but light enough to feel alright rooting for. He’s ruthless, but he’s a ruthless endearing underdog.

I definitely want to check out more by Howard Hawks. Did you know I haven’t even seen The Big Sleep? It feels deplorable, it does. If his other work is as masterful as Scarface I may be getting a new favorite director. If I’ve spoken too soon, with my foot in my mouth, I’ll address it in upcoming installments, over 220 posts from now.

580. Intolerable Cruelty (Directed by Joel Coen)

What a sick twist of fate: the last Coen brothers movie I see is the first I review. Destiny is a confusing she-wolf.

Screwball comedies, I miss you. I want gutsy, fast talking women and adorable leading men who remain at their best when bested. Intolerable Cruelty pays homage, and adds on to, a great familiar genre which has been lost somewhere in the past half-century. 

Judging from the cover, poster, and anything else marketing the movie I expected Intolerable Cruelty to be my least liked Coen brother venture. I was shown George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, big Hollywood names with nothing to lose, staring dotingly into each others eyes. “Romantic comedy blech,” I thought. “Surely the Coens jest.” I should never have misjudged them.

Intolerable Cruelty may be one of their funniest films yet. The clever wordplay is at its cleverest. Its comedic timing could have a clock set to it. All of the actors treat the absurd as dead-pan as possible, and man, oh man, does it culminate into something hilarious. That something: Intolerable Cruelty.

Don’t be like this guy over here. Give Intolerable Cruelty a chance. If you’ve heard someone denigrating it ignore them, and let yourself decide. I can see where it would be everyone’s cup of tea, but for a culture ready to throw thousands away on Epic Movie and the next straight-to-DVD American Pie it feels like Intolerable Cruelty is something all the more special. Hilarious and special. I cherish it.