Monday, December 28, 2009

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 17

We start off our last day of listing with friend of YMD Katie Higgins, whose birthday it is today. So, wish her a happy birthday by reading her rather epic list while yelling (wearing?) something loud and Russell Crowey.

1. Gladiator dir. Ridley Scott (2000)
"Are you not entertained!!!"

From the opening scene, Ridley Scott manages to avoid the kitchy-ness of most other "toga and sandal"  hollywoodized  renditions by keeping the gloriously majestic Maximus Decimus Aurelius grounded (physically running his hand through the soil to drive this point home further) in the whirlwind of a big budget Roman spectacle, and while I am predisposed to liking most things Mr. Scott directs because of my extreme love of the unicorn scene in Blade Runner, I appreciate the artistic dimension he brought to a film that could have easily fallen slave to colossal grandeur and indulgence. The Classics nerd in me appreciated the many scenes that look as though  they have been taken right out of Roman frescos, lending an artistic backdrop to the movie's many, albeit heavy handed, metaphors. I also high-fve R. Scott for maintaining an element of surreal escapism that no doubt adds a level of depth so many big budget films lack in lieu of pyrotechnics and impressive CGI. The montages we see invite us inside Maximus's tormented character, and contrast his humanity alongside his ringside persona. Everything artistic aside, I love this movie, I love Russell Crowe (pre A Beautiful Mind), and its the first movie I remember crying during a movie save The Silver Stallion, another Crowe-vian treasure. I also know all the dialogue by heart.

2. O Brother Where Art Thou dir Joel Coen (2000)
" Damn we're in a tight spot"

After I saw this movie I started dreaming in Sepia. No one can say that they do not like looking at this movie (even beyond George Clooney's distractingly rugged good looks and being bestowed with the ' gift of gab'). The Coen brother's do a good job defeating short lived plans with an air of spontaneity that drives our three main characters in and out of luck like the motley crew they are. Tackling religion, racism, and stereotypes of the south you're left at the end of the movie confused, bewildered but appreciative of the wild ride you've just endured (its a long movie no?) once again klassical Katie, appreciates the fleeting Oddessy throwbacks that are elegantly dotted throughout the film. A blind seer named Tyresius...check, Sirens that cause your undoing...check, Moonshine aka Lotus Flowers...Check, and the loose list of allegories continues.  Another jewel in this movie is their liberal quantity of fat southern men in white suits (John Goodman!!)-- it's a personal pleasure of mine that I don't feel I need to explain. And finally, this movie introduced me to Allison krauss, This movie has one of my favorite soundtracks. Its gospel! What can I say, "I'm a Dapper Dan [wo]man."

3. Harry Potter 3 - 6 dir. Alfonzo Cuarón (3), Mike Newell (4), David Yates (5, 6) (2004-9)
"You're a fool, Harry Potter, and you will lose everything. "

 I tried so hard to hate Harry Potter, but then after much protest I agreed to go with my mother to see the 3rd movie in theaters. Here, I discovered the unctuous character of Severus Snape. I was instantly enraptured by Alan Rickman's delicious performance (and voice) that I immediately had to find out the true nature of his slippery character-- cementing a literary crush whose only rival is John Proctor from the Crucible (and I love him) This obsession culminated into me reading 1800 pages  in one sleepless night until I found out my answer. These stupid movies made me read the entire series of children's books. I appreciate their darkness, as well as their uncanny ability to serve as christmas movies. Another high point for me is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. Isaacs is one of my favorite actor villains (He's fab. in The Patriot with Mel Gibson--which almost made it onto my list) as he just seethes with evilness. I was also reading somewhere that HP is one of the only modern Epics. And as a huge proponent of the hero's journey and epic poetry, I love watching the rise and fall of harry as he is tempted by evil only to rise from the brink of madness to save muggle kind. And finally 'lol' at the 6th movie's attempt in dealing with teenage sexuality.

4. No Country for Old Men dir. Joel and Ethan Coen (2007)
"Nervous Accountant: Are you going to shoot me?
Anton Chigurh: That depends. Do you see me? "

I was torn between choosing NCFOM or TWBB, they both being the stand out dramas of the past couple years, but I thought picking them both would make my list too cerebral. Instead I was faced with the hard decision of picking just one. While the last 20 minutes of TWBB is an example of DDL personifying acting at its absolute finest, on a whole, I found NCFOM to be a better film. This is a lot to do with the Coen brother's use of 'silence' in a way that hasn't influenced the structure of cinema since the Buffy episode, "Hush," and Javier Bardem's incredible rendition of Anton Chigurh is up there with my top villains of all time (next to Robin Williams in Death to Smoochie), and I especially like their use of hair as a medium to vilify.  I appreciated the untimely deaths, and once again they great filters the Coens employ to see their world through. Their films always look so rich, and dusty. And while I've never read the book, I've heard that they adapted it almost word for word which is pretty rad. I also like entertaining the idea that Anton Chigurh doesn't actually exist, and I guess this idea comes across more in the book, than in the film, but if he was in fact a 'ghost' that eludes these characters it would be metaphysical bliss. I like watching you get old Tommy Lee Jones, so maybe its no country for some men, not just the old ones.

5. Requiem for a Dream dir. Darren Aronofsky (2000)
"Does this train go to Madison Avenue?!."

While I feel as though I might get some flack for adding this to my list RFAD is one of the movies that changed how I view movies, or what I want to get out of seeing movies. The actors who took these roles deserve commendation, as they subjected themselves to states of physical and mental degradation that many other actors would balk at. I mean the last 15 minutes of that movie left me speechless, and never wanting to stick anything in my veins. Ellen Burstyn deserves her own sentence for her absolute greatness. Her lonely portrait of a Brighton beach mother longing to be noticed is heart-wrenching. Its not all about the red dress. Her physical transformation and the hell she traps herself in are no doubt hyperbolized for drama (refrigerator scene), but there is something very real and very scary about it that makes me want to hug my mom and tell her she is pretty everyday. Her hair is also a point of interest for me, I can't explain why though. Also one of the best motivational speaker roles besides Tom Cruise in Magnolia. They should show this in health class instead of those silly D.A.R.E videos.

6. The Squid and the Whale dir. Noah Baumbach (2005)
" You're being a shit, Walt!"

I remember it was freshman year, and it was my first ever trip to the Angelika when i saw TSATW. I absolutely hated it. Maybe I wasn't expecting what I saw, or maybe I thought it would be something along the lines of a Sixteen Candles-esque coming of age film. But a couple of years later I caught it on TV, and did a complete 180. maybe watching it with no expectations, or maybe the personal growth that happened in the two years between triggered something that resounded sadly. Maybe it was because Jeff Daniels delivers the absolute worst fatherly advice, or maybe it was my own realization that parents can really fuck up their kids with their own pettiness and destructive decisions. Baumbach deconstructed family life,  all of a sudden showing us how the 2000's had moved away from Pleasantvillian idealism. Where the suburban dream had become more urban and less simple.  It was as if someone had made a feature length Freaks and Geeks episode. To take a giant step for man-kind here- I think this movie completely set the stage for the hoodie-generation of sad quirky funny dramadies of the J. Appatow vein. I also partially blame TSATW for bringing hipster vogue into the mainstream-- suddenly everyone wanted to be quirky. Every time I watch this movie it gets a little sadder, imagining a world with no real role models, how can you grow up to be a functioning human being. And at what point can you step back and say, "Fuck you dad," and really mean it.

7. Dancer in the Dark dir. Lars von Trier (2000)
"In a musical, nothing dreadful ever happens."

What's not to like about a film that stars Bjork. This movie is one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. Immigrants, language barriers, disease, all existing in a world where really no one cares. If this was your life, wouldn't you escape to a world where everything was a musical and you were a Broadway star. (Another hidden Buffy Reference here-- musicals are not an appropriate way to deal with a tragic reality.) Beautiful, sad, and full of injustice with the innocuous Bjork standing out as a fallen hero at the hands of injustice. And I believe, an an especially poignant episode of celebrity Jeopardy, Winona Ryder as Bjork said, "Everything is musical"-- something that Trier incorporates wisely and well into his film, using ambient noise to frame musical outsongs. All of these elements together create something that's is surreal and incongruous at points, but when coupled with a relatively slow pacing creates something that arcs into one graceful metaphor that ends with one devastating blow to the heart.

8.Eurotrip dir. Jeff Schaffer (2004)
"I saw a gay porno once. I didn't know until halfway in. The girls never came. The girls never came! "

 That is easily my favorite thing to say when slightly drunk and no one knows what i am talking about or what I am referencing. Herein lies the exquisite beauty of Eurotrip. The first time I saw this movie was the first time I got drunk. I was at a party in my brothers apt about 6 years ago (my apt now) I had just beat him in beer pong in front of all of his friends,  and had started passing out from over-boozing. My brother carried me downstairs, put me in bed and turned on Eurotrip to lull me to sleep. Through my drunk eyes I thought I had seen angel, but it was in fact Matt Damon dressed like a Good Charlotte skin head rocking out to the hit single "Scotty Doesn't Know." But that's the thing, Scotty did know. This low level irony wonderfully permeates this wondrous film through and through.  No joke is too simple, no stereotype too stereotypical. As far as mindless college humor movies go. This movie stands our for its sheer unadulterated hilarity and perfect pacing. It is the quintessential European road trip movie that when it boils down to it, is all about love. And whats not to like about the purity of teenage love. This movie has the ability to bring out the xenophobe in even the most congenial of spirits and makes you never want to ride in a train car with an Italian stranger. Also can you really hate a movie that has a titillating cameo of Xena the Warrior Princess clad head to toe in pleather, welding a three pronged three dildo'ed machine gun? The honest to god answer is no, you can not. Even the pope can't help but laugh at this movie, as Eurotrip's hijinks's tackle the topic of religion with the ease of a baby eating applesauce. Nothing is off limits in this movie, and I believe it holds the title for most full frontal male nudity on a single shot. Enjoy me hearties. Yo Ho

9. Big Fish dir. Tim Burton (2003)
"The grass so green. Skies so blue. Spectre is really great!"

Big Fish marks one of the only times i have left a movie theatre with my heart having been literally warmed. Everything about this movie is whimsical and completely implausible, or is it? In true Tim Burton fashion there is that soft Gothic undertone that makes everything a little sad (Helena Bohnam Carter is mostly responsible for this) and a little more beautiful because of it. Each of the stories are so different, and given their own unique look through T. Burton's art direction that it just makes you want to believe that everything is true. There are so many traditional plot elements: the road less travelled by, doing anything for love, desire to make something of oneself, and the 'Big Fish,' little pond story line that somehow avoid being trite by indulging in Burton's world of acceptable make believe. And its not so much about how these lies create a false world as it is about waxing philosophical on the human condition and how we deal with with life's banality. Maybe its because my dad tells the same stories over and over again exaggerating the details after each subsequent telling, I find something annoyingly comfortable about this entire film, or maybe its my own tendency to stretch the truth for the sake of a better story that makes Big Fish a part of my list. Burton asks us, whats wrong with a little hyperbole, or those 'truths' that are just a wee bit specious (I've been dying to use that word in a sentence since the GRE) and I say, absolutely nothing. I think it should also be noted here that Danny Devito as a carnie, and Steve Buschemi as  his own big-eyed self help make his movie awesome.

10. Love Me if You Dare (Jeux d'enfants) dir. Yann Samuell (2003)
"Tell me that you love me first because I'm afraid that if I tell you first you'll think that I'm playing the game."

While i really wanted this list to be mostly action movies and teen comedies it went in a completely different direction, but I will ride this serious horse and see where it takes me. People started loving cute-quirky-french romcoms with Amelie, but for me LMIYD rings a bit more painfully and not quite as perfunctory as its quainter counterpart. Its about a game of truth or dare that started between two friends as kids, but then continued into adulthood and escalated into something truly horrible and perverted. Its not quite a romantic comedy so much as it is two people being really mean to one another even though they are in love, using their childish game to avoid their real feelings and any chance at happiness (reminds me of myself in high school) I mean love makes us do they crazy, but how far is too far, or not far enough. The ending of this movie is perhaps the best ending I've ever seen in a romcom or any movie for that matter, and the reason why this movie belongs here. No spoilers, go out and see it. Oh, and Marion Cotillard is in it. Rawr.

1 comment:

shmiggs said...

grammar was MIA yesterday, sorry i was writing at work.