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!