Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top 5 TV experiences of 2010

It is the end of the year and as someone who likes lists and hates coming up with original writing ideas I decided to make a list of the Top 5 TV experiences of 2010. A “TV Experience” is similar to a “Girlfriend Experience” without the extra $1500 and a rash that never seems to go away. A TV experience is a season of a TV show that I watched this year. This can be a new show. It can be season of a show that I had not seen or it could be a DVD set of a TV show that came out previously and I have not had a chance to view it.
1. Treme
Treme tells the story of New Orleans as the city recovers from the “Man Made Disaster” that was Katrina. It explores the different perspectives, challenges, needs and frustrations that people who choose to come back home to New Orleans instead of taking the easier route of moving. New Orleans is the only unique American city. You could go into restaurants, offices, city blocks in any major city and they are indistinguishable. New Orleans is different. Treme tells its story. It explores corruption, incompetence of city/state officials; contractors who took money and did not do work; musicians trying to get by living gig to gig; and people doing whatever it takes to bring the city back to its greatness. Stephen Zahn is the best part of the show. His quick humor, reliance, humor, energy, womanizing, helpful, everyman characteristics, happy go lucky personality and true devotion to music make him the living epitome of New Orleans. If you like his character you would love New Orleans.
If you like these things you (might) like Treme: The Wire/Generation Kill (same writer/production team, but those were much better). Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting CD (great songs about New Orleans),
2. The League
The League (which most of you have never heard of) is a show on FX. It centers around five friends who are in a Fantasy Football League together. Just as Cheers was about a bunch of guys in a bar, The League is about a bunch of guys who play fantasy football. Fantasy Football serves as a way to put five friends together so we can watch these self-absorbed, crude, very funny people interact. This show is essentially about how men behave around other men who they can say anything too.
If you like these things you (might) like The League: It is Always Sunny in Philadelphia (same type of base crude humor and a dialog that seems to have come from a real conversation. ); Fantasy Football (helpful but not necessary); If you are not easily offended (jokes about masturbation, scaring children and cocaine fueled sex); if you have a group of friends you can bust balls with, tell jokes with, drink beer with, help them move and be there if you are ever really needed,
3. Life (Season 2 on DVD)
Life is a show that deserved to go on longer. There were only two seasons of this show. Life is about a cop who was exonerated for a brutal family murder after 12 years in prison. As part of his release, he received a huge settlement check (amount never disclosed) and got his job back as a Los Angeles Police Detective. His time in prison changed him. He embraced Buddhism and the shows have him receipt some sort of Buddhist statement. The best one was after getting a new Bentley “I am not attached to this car. I am not attached to this car.” This is a show that embraces the Who Dun It premise and gives it a radically different perspective. This show should have gone on for another three years.
If you like these things you (might) like Life; Buddhism; Intelligent TV shows that make you think; The L Word (Sarah Shahi stared in both. She is easily one of the 10 most beautiful women in the world. She is great in the show and deserves another TV show. NOW!);
4. Justified
This is a show about US Marshal who after a justified shooting, is reassigned to his home town in rural Kentucky. I can only hope that a future episode with feature the Creationism amusement park. Justified addresses how the US Marshal Service does a wide variety of things from Prisoner transport, criminal investigation, and anything that needs to be done. The shows strength, like all good shows, comes from two places outstanding writing and a character that you trust, are interested in and want to succeed. Timothy Olyphant who has always been adequate in movies but never outstanding has created a character that is entertaining, funny, tough, genuine and like all good western hero’s he always gets his man.
If you like these things you (might) like Justified; The Shield (Walton Goggins (Shane) from The Shield is a recurring character); old fashion westerns (the hero actually wears a White Hat); very, very dry humor.
5. Dexter Season 3 and Season 4 on DVD. Dexter remains one of the most creative, well acted, subtly/darkly funny, scary, shows on television. Dexter suffers from comparison to its first two seasons. The first two seasons were much better than seasons 3 and 4, but that is also like saying the 1996 World Series Champion Yankees were not as good at the 1927 Yankees. Dexter is radically different from any other character previously on TV. Dexter created a likeable, serial killer who operates within an ethical code that both serves society and his compulsion to kill. The best parts of the show remain the outstanding writing (especially Dexter’s narration), Sgt. Angel Hernandez (Always great and always underrated. He is the type of partner you would want if you were a police officer),
If you like these things you (might) like Dexter: Oz (several of the characters came from this painfully overlooked unflinching TV series that was in many ways darker than Dexter), anything about serial killers (duh)

Honorable Mentions:
1. Law and Order season 20: the television equivalent of a great cheeseburger. Always consistent, VERY formulaic, but NEVER disappointing. It deserved another season.
2. Man Men; I still have not seen an entire season beginning to end. The episodes here and there I have seen have always been good.
3. Nip Tuck; another show that started with two brilliant seasons, started to decline and had a good final half season to close the show well if not great.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 12: It Might Get Loud (2009)

Everyone with a soul has at one point wanted to be a rock star. If you are not a complete narcissist you wanted to play lead guitar instead of being the singer. It Might Get Loud will reawaken that part of you that came alive the first time you heard that first great guitar riff. It could be Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit”, Gun’s n’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine”, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lot of Love”, The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” but whatever it was you knew that you had never really been alive until you heard that music and a part of you knew that nothing would ever be the same.
That first great rock song is like your first great love. You discovered it almost by accident. You felt fear, raw sexuality, and like you were becoming an adult all in a few seconds. It Might Get Loud makes you feel that way all over again.
It Might Get Loud is a documentary featuring Jack White of the White stripes, The Edge of U2 and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Three great guitarist come together to talk music, to jam and talk about what influences them. The film comes across as a bystander who is a fan of great music who quietly sits while the three maestros experiment, jam, talk, joke and open themselves up in a way that you never see.
While most “Rock-umentries” (I hate that term. It is too contrived to have come from anywhere but a late 80s MTV staff meeting.) come across as a forced interview designed to say what genius the musicians are and that if you want to understand pure art you will buy their latest album. This documentary about musicians comes across as three people who are brought together because of their love of music and the guitar. You believe that despite the money, the fame, the adulation (aka groupies), that they would want to hang out on a Friday night in someone’s old house after a long week of work and play guitar.
This is the movie that is not a way to spend a Saturday night. This is the movie to watch alone. Then hang out with friends who like music (who really like music) ask the simple question “Which is a better Zeppelin song Rock n’ Roll or Whole Lot of Love?” in a bar that has a really good jukebox. Bring some quarters, a willingness to see where the conversation goes and blast the songs that need to be heard.
p.s. Ironically, my favorite Zeplin song is “Going to California” not loud but still powerful and brilliant. The song that woke me up was “Stairway to Heaven” I was 13, my first kiss came three months later and life would never be the same.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 18 500 Days of Summer

The five best romantic comedites of all time are:
1. Annie Hall – The Casablanca of romantic comedies.
2. When Harry met Salley – Fake orgasm, Wagon Wheel Coffee table, Don’t Fuck with Mr. Zero
3. Brother’s McMullen – if you have not heard of this truly independent movie check it out.
4. Say Anything/Singles – same director, same city, same cameos (Eric Stoltz and Jeremy Piven), both AMAZING soundtracks.
5. Love Actually was number five until I saw 500 Days of Summer.
500 Days of Summer has a horrible opening. It begins withteh Pixxy Queen Zoey Dechenl wearing an engagemnt ring and holding hands with Joseph Gordon Levitt on a park bench.. You think that this weill be a very formulic boy-meets-girl, get engaged and live happily ever after. That was a good movie 60 years ago, but now we have seen that movie 100 times. 500 Days does not fall into that very easy trap. 500 Days tells the story of Zoey, her character’s name is Summer, and Gordon-Levitt by examing the 500 days between when they first met until that day on the Park Bency.
500 Days benefits by not having a sequential story. By having the story told non-sequentially the same events; going to Ikea, specific jokes, eating pancakes and Karokee lead to radically different reactions from the characters based on their psycholigical and emotional status. These scnes also shwo the evolution of the caracters. The emotional growth/maturation of Zoey and Gordon-Levitt is very reflective of the changes we go through in our late 20s/early 30s. The removail of our social anx and the realization of what is truly importatn and, to blatently still from the great Chuck Palunk, “let the things that do not really matter truly slide.”
The film also benefits from having two brieltly creative scenes. The morning after they have sex for the first time (ARE YOU REALLY SURPRISED TWO PEOPLE IN THEIR 20S HAVE SEX IN A ROMANTIC COMEDY?), Gordon-Levitt goes home in the moring and his walk evolves to a dance scene played to Hall and Oats “You make my Dreams come True.” This shows exactly how e feels without saying a word.
The other creative scnee is where Gordon-Levitt goes to a party at Zoey/Summer’s house. The party is shown in split screne. On one side it shows how Gordon-Levitt hopes/invisions/prayed to all that is Holy that the party will go and the other side whows hot the party actually goes.
The two scnes show how Gordon-Levit feels about Zoey. The full ranges of utter joy (think being 5 years old and getting a puppy for Christmas) and pure anguish (everyone with a soul has had their heart ripped out).
This is a very good movie. It is like a real relationship. Good conversations. Great sex. Funny jokes. Dancing. Pain. An awkward wedding. Joy. Karokee and like all adult relationships a trip to IKEA.

p.s. This was a great movie for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This with the previous year’s The Lookout (overlooked and underrated) show he is a force to be reckoned with…

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 19 Syriana

This film has a great cast. Almost everone of them was better in something else. Christopher Plumber was better in The Insider and The Sound of Music. The CRIMINALLY underrated Jeffrey Wright was better in Angles in America. The slightly over rated Matt Damon was better in the Borne movies. Chris Carter was much better in American Beauty, for which he deserved an Oscar, and Adaptation, for which he won an Oscar. The only exception is George Clooney. This is far and away his best acting performance. Clooney is one of the few actors who is hurt by being good looking. If he had average looks he would be apprecaited more, of course he would also get much fewer roles, but that is besides the point. He has proven that he can be very funny (O Brother Where Art Thou), serious (Good Night and Good Luck), charming (Oceans Eleven), tough (Michael Clayton) and in the case of Syriana extremly talented.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 20 In the Bedroom

Domestic Violence. Relationships your parents hate. Single mothers. Death of an only child. A plot to murder someone.
No, In the Bedroom is not a light summer movie. It is not a feel good movie. However, unlike most movies it does make you feel something. The plot revolves arround a young boy (Actor name) in the summer before he goes to college who starts to date a single mom (Marisa Tomei deserved an Oscar for this instead of My Cousin Vinnie) who has gotten out of a violent controlling relationship with (Actor Name). All three do the best work of their career. (young actor) succesfully negotiated being a child actor and nailed this befect not a young actor and not an adult actor (toughest transition in Hollywood that very few are able to do succesfully. Ironically, the one that did it best Juaquim Phoenix no longer acts.). He captured the character's childish naivity about relationship barriers while balancing it with a 20 something male bravado about casual relationships. Marisa Tomei hits her role out of the park. She showed the vulnerabilty that can only come from a deep relationship that goes incredibly bad and balances it with the hope of a good healthy relationship. She also shows her fear when she refuses to lie during a trial. (willnot spoil it). (Tom Cruise's cousin) gives a menacing portral of a socio-path while giving him the outward appearnce of being a fun guy to have a beer with. He does this without being cliche' and turning this role into a Lifetime Movie of the Week role. This performance was greatly overlooked and deserves more credit.
In almost any other movie, these three performances would have dominated the film and made a very, very good movie. However, the best acting of this movie, in one of the greatest on screen husband/wife couples of all time, is turned in by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson. Both of them have been better in other films (Coal Minner's Daughter and Michael Clayton/Fully Monty respectively), but they come togehter seemlessly here. They have the silent flow of a couple that has been together for forty years and say everything without saying a word. They way they deal with the death of their son and the subsequent trial and consequences of the trial is intimate and revealing.
The closing scene where Wilkinson is home and has the look of a man who has sunk to moral depths that were so far below himself that he never dreamed them possible, who is ravaged by the pain from the loss of his son, the fear of loss of even more, guilt over his actions are crippling to this pround, strong and essentially good man. Spacek's actions show that they will never talk about this, or possibly their son again, and wants to move on and go back to a normal life. Wilkinson knows this is not possible, but will try.
Essentially, this story is about desires. The characters who give into their desires loose their lives (in some cases literally and in some cases figuratively) and those that push down their desires survive but survive as shells of the people they use to be, want to be and see themselves as. No one is better off when this story ends from where it began. All of the people suffer. All of the people loose. The only people that benefit from this are those of us lucky enough to watch this great film....

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 21 300

Warning: If you are a guy, do not ask your wife/girlfriend is she thinks you are in as good of shape of the Spartans after you watch the movie 300. She will lie to you and tell you yes. Or she will tell you No and encourage you to join a gym.

Yes, the movie is a simple. Yes, the acting is not great. Yes, it is “based” on historical fact. Yes, those historical facts are not accurately depicted. Yes, there are times when the movie is a commercial for 24 Hour Fitness. Yes, the movie has slow parts. Yes, every actor has done better work. Yes, it is based on a comic book. Excuse me “Graphic Novel.” Calling a comic book a graphic novel is like calling porn Erotica. It is the same thing, but costs five times as much and you can keep it on our coffee table without people thinking you are a freak.

It is also the best pure action movie of the past decade. It has amazing fight/action scenes. The bad guys are evil. You cheer for the good guys. You want them to win. You despise the characters who betray the brave 300. You get caught up in the movie.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 22 Love Actually

Love, Love, Love
Love, Love, Love
Love is all you need.

My favorite Beatles song made it into this very simple Romantic Comedy. That gives this movie a little bit of a bump, but the movie has more than a good cover of a great song.

Since it is a romantic comedy the producers were required by law to cast Hugh Grant. Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Mariano Rivera and John Grisham all only do one thing well, romantic comedies, a great man with a fatal flaw, a perfect slider and a simple lawyer story, but they do them exceptionally well. Hugh Grant does his usual Hugh Grant thing and does it very well. This time he is doing the Hugh Grant thing as Prime Minister of Great Brittan. Hey, if you can believe a multiple men can fall head over heels in love with Sara Jessica Parker you can suspend disbelief enough to think of Hugh Grant as Prime Minister.

Love Actually is a combination of eight (yes eight!) love stories all slightly connected either through friendships or random chance. This is an example of how the sum is great than the parts. Each of the stories is unique and even at their most bizarre (one British man goes to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to meet women because over there he will be exotic) to their most ominously foreshadowing (Liam Neeson plays a widower, six years before his wife’s tragic death, who is trying to raise his son on his own and give romantic advice to a 10 year old). While all of these stories revolve around love/romance they have at their true center courage. These are stories of a Prime Minister who stands up to a bullying US President (played perfectly by Billy Bob Thornton who is channeling Bill Clinton) and starts a relationship, a cheated on wife who has the courage to make her marriage work, a man who has the courage to fly to America to seduce women (ok, maybe that one is more lust and desperation), a husband whose marriage is ended by his wife’s infidelity with his brother who has the courage to learn Portuguese to seduce the woman he has fallen in love with, a washed up rock star who has the courage to be a real human being and a decadent rock start at the same time, and a man who has the courage to walk away from the woman he loves because she is married to his best friend.

This movie also benefits from having an amazing cast.
Alan Rickman (2nd best performance barely edging out Galaxy Quest and behind Die Hard)
Bill Nighy (great washed up ROCK STAR)
Colin Firth (women like him)
Emma Thompson (getting better at comedies)
Hugh Grant (always good/never great)
Laura Linney (Massively underrated, deserves more good roles and an Oscar)
Keira Knightly (a role that is right in her wheelhouse)
Rowan Atkinson (has a two minute appearance that is the perfect amount of time for him)
Billy Bob Thornton (has he ever been bad?)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (you may not know him now, but he has been in a ton of great movies, Inside Man, Red Belt (trust me), American Gangster, Children of Men. Watch three of his movies and judge for yourself. It is possible that he could turn out to be the best actor on this list.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 23: Traffic

This decade Michael Douglas is known more for being Catherine Zeta-Jones husband than for being a good actor who has made some great films. Wall Street, Romancing the Stone, The China Syndrome, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct,the criminally neglected Wonder Boys and Traffic are all great films. These roles are all very different. At the time these movies were made is there anyone else who could have played a Evil Wall Street robber baron, a soldier of fortune, a camera man, a police detective with a kinky side, an unfaithful husband, a stoned out college professor/writer and the United States Drug Czar? Maybe Harrison Ford in Romancing the Stone, but that is it. No two characters are the same. No two characters have the same motivation and when watching none of these movies do you feel you are just watching Michael Douglas.
Traffic is great for a lot of reasons. One, it showed that Stephen Soderberg could make a commercially successful film, that addressed serious topics in a realistic way. The acting is phenomenal. Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid (very good here), Don Cheedle (someone please give him another great script and let him get the Oscar he deserves), Topher Grace (showed he could act with some heavy weights) and the Oscar winner Benecio Del Toro are all great.
This movie could very easily become a movie of the week saying drugs are bad and they hurt families. It did not. It makes you ask questions about what is actually going on with our families. Also, what is the price we pay for our ambition? Would Michael Douglas’s daughter gotten on drugs if he had put more time at home and less time advancing his carrer? Did Cather Zeta-Jones always suspect that her husband was a drug dealer and only got upset when the perfect life she had for herself was upended? How was success change Benecio Del Toro?
Soderberg weaves three essential stories together. The story of a Drug Czar who is struggling to help his daughter kick drugs. The story of a Drug Dealer’s wife who copes with her husbands arrest and her ethical changes and she evolves from naïve wife to cruel drug dealer. The story of the one honest Mexican cop who despretly wants peace in his time and to watch a simple game of baseball.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 24: No Country for Old Men

Being bad is more fun than being good. If this was not the case no one would have heard of Hugh Hefner. No Country for Old Men is a perfect example of this. The movie has two good performances (Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin), one very underrated and darkly funny performance (Woody Harelson) and one skin crawling, vicious, scare the crap out of Hannibal Lector Performance, in what could be the best performance of the decade (Javier Bardem).
This is a great movie. The Cohen Brothers, in the first of their two entries on this list, prove once again that they cannot be placed in one type of movie. They make brilliant comedies (Raising Arizona, Burn after Reading) and incredible dramas (The Man who wasn’t there and Miller’s Crossing) and movies that cannot be truly categorized (Big Labowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Their only consistency is brilliance. They take chances with the work they do. They focus on making good work that they find interesting and seem to follow the belief that people will seek out good films.
Their work brings up the classic Chicken and the Egg argument about filmmakers. Do filmmakers need to find an audience with commercial films and then make the films they want to make that are much more creative and better? See David Fincher’s arc of Alien 3 to Fight Club to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Or should filmmakers make their own passion projects gain credibility and then make commercial films to secure financing for more adventures films. See Steven Soderbergh’s arc Sex, Lies and Videotapes to Ocean’s 12 to The Girlfriend Experience.
I personally like this film because it introduced me to the writing of Cormac McCarthy. He is a brilliant writer whose work has been turned into other works including All the Pretty Horses and The Road (my favorite book I read in 2009).
However, this movie rises and falls based on the brilliant and evil performance of Javier Bardem. His character of Anton Chigurh is introduced to the audience by having him strangle a man to death with his own handcuffs. Then he gets mean. The character is purely evil. He enjoys exerting his power over other people. He enjoys watching their fear before they die. I cannot adequately describe his work on this page.
Go watch this movie as part of a Cohen Brothers Double feature along with their classic Raising Arizona. Both films have the parallel structure of a Husband and Wife being pursued by an evil character because they took something that does not belong to them. These parallel by polar opposite films show the Cohen’s genus and take the audience on an amazing journey.

Top 25 Movies of 2000s: 25: Motorcycle Diaries

Motorcycle Diaries is the Che Guevara Bio-Pic based on the Che Guevara’s personal diaries of the trip he took from his home in Argentina until throughout South America. Originally, the trip was planned to only take a few months. He would return and finish his final semester of Medical School and become a simple Argentina Doctor. Instead, his journey took him to Mexico where he befriended Fidel Castro. It is there that he joined the movement to invade and over throw the Cuban government.
Motorcycle Diaries mentions almost none of his political beliefs. Instead, it shows the events of his life and the viewer is free to interpret how these events dramatically influenced his life. In its simplest terms, Motorcycle Diaries is a coming of age story. On its most complex, it forces you to evaluate your own life. Here is someone who took a massive change in his life. He gave up a very safe, easy and prosperous life in order to do what he really felt was important. After traveling throughout South America he saw extreme poverty, disease, the influence of greedy corporations and the disparity between rich and poor.
The question that I came away with from the movie is how much does age play in life decisions. He stared on his trip in his 20s. Would he have given up what he gave up in life if he had been in his 30s or 40s? It also asks the question; do our values change as we age or are our psychological need for stability (emotional, psychological, societal and financial) overrides our sense of societal outrage?
The other element I find interesting is his meeting Fidel Castro. Obviously, he had communist beliefs and a sense of revolution prior to meeting Fidel, but if they had never met what would his world and to a large extent our global political system be like today?
What makes this movie great is the fact that it takes a simple story, two guys in their 20s on a motorcycle trip, and presents so many questions to the viewer. Like the movie itself, Motorcycle Diaries is not great exclusively for the journey we see, but the thoughts, beliefs and questions we have afterwards.

Top 25 Movies of 2000-2009: Introduction

Yes, I am unoriginal. I am compiling a list of the 25 best movies of the 2000-2009. I know every hack writer and unoriginal pod caster is doing this, but I think this is a great way to reevaluate what are some overlooked movies and remember what makes movies great. Movies made my list based on several things.
1. Were they great movies? When I left the theater or finished watching them did I think they were just great movies?
2. Did I have emotional event? Did watching this movie have an emotional impact on me or did the movie just glaze me over like I was a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
3. Did the movie take a chance? Did the writer/director/actor take a chance when making the movie or did they stick to a generic movie formula.
4. Was there a purely amazing element of the movie?
5. Did the movie have a scene that if they flashed 5 seconds of it on a TV screen would you know it instantly? Meg Ryan saying Yes! Janet Leigh screaming in the shower. Charleton Heston seeing the Statue of Liberty.
6. Did the movie have a great script or at least a very memorable monologue/line? “I’m out of order! You’re out of order!” “You can’t handle the Truth!””Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
7. Did the movie make you think?
8. Did the movie being made have a lasting impact on other movies going forward? All romantic comedies have elements of Annie Hall. All gangster movies have elements of the Godfather. Except for the movie Mobsters. That movie sucked!
9. Great soundtracks pushed some movies into the list.
10. Movies also lost points for being overrated, having a noticeably very bad acting aka the Sophia Copola exception, being too cliché and for being a life support system for special effects.
Here are some movies that did not make the list:
1. Avatar – amazing special effects, solid acting and technology that could redefine the future of movie making. The toughest cut. The story was too simple.
2. Rocky Balboa – yes, all the rocky movies are clichés. But like being proposed to at the Eifel Tower, some clichés are still pretty good.
3. Gangs of New York – not a truly great scene.
4. One Hour Photo – very touch omission. Robin Williams took a chance on a very evil character. Gary Cole did an amazing book end performance as a manager. This would be an amazing movie to watch after Office Space.
5. There Might be Blood – an amazing performance by Daniel Day Lewis. His exemption hurts. He did some of the best acting of the decade and his two best performances did not make my list.
6. Gladiator – very good, but it never connected with me the way it did for other people.
The goal is to have three movies from my list be posted each week. Let me know what you think. Some of my choices will not be popular and I hold the right to have a tie with some of my numbers.
The current lists has three foreign language films, two documentaries, six comedies, no cartoons, two based on comics, one mini-series (it is from HBO Films so there is sort of an asterisk), the star of my number one movie of 2000 is also the start of my number 2 movie of the 1990s. It is not Russell Crow, Tim Robbins, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Clint Eastwood, or Jack Nicholson. Only one director appears on the list twice.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Best Movie Song Moments

When they present the award for score at the Academy Awards, they show a great scene without music. This emphasises how important music is to the movies.

I think this is overkill. If music is really critical to the scene it is almost another character. My definition of critical is this:
1. Does the song make the scene better?
2. If you hear the song years later does it make you think of that scene?
3. Does the song reflect the characters/scenes thoughts, emotions, essence better than words or actions?
4. Does hearing that song years later evoke emotions/a physical reaction years later?

Editors Note: I am refusing to include any song that was the name of a movie. Yes, that means I am refusing to discuss Pretty Woman and Satisfaction. Get your Julia Roberts fix somewhere else. I am also refusing to discuss movies that were vehicles for musicians to being a movie. No Hard Days Night, no Yellow Submarine (toughest omission) and no Elvis movies (easiest omission).

Top Five Movie Song Moments
5. Stuck in the Middle with You - Reservoir Dogs; This has become definitive song to play when you absolutely , positively have to cut someones ear off. If there is a YouTube clip of the movie Lust for Life with Stuck in the Middle being played please send it to me.
This song is perfect because 1. It was not a hugely popular son before Reservoir Dogs. It did not have a built in memory for most people. Therefore, Terintino could define how it will be viewed, remembered and define a dramatic movie scene. 2. The pop music qualities are perfect for Michale Madsen (aka Mr. Blond) to do his little dance as he is getting out his razor. The dance showed that he was genuinely looking forward to torturing this cop. He did not care what the cop knew. He was dancing and having a good time because he could not contain his excitement. 3. The ominous lines of "I don't know whey I came here tonight. I got the feeling that something ain't right." Those are simple lines but become disturbing when a sociopath is dancing in front of you with a razor blade.

Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the way when Terintino, the studio's legal department, the sound mixer and the owners of the rights to the song were discussing how it will be used. How much money would they need to give a song writer to let them decide that a song they loved would become the soundtrack for someone being tortured?

Honorable Mention from Terintino movies:
True Blue by Madonna. The scene where Terintino aka Mr. Brown is describing the meaning of the song. A great contrast of all those hardened criminals discusion the fluffiest song that Madonna ever performed.
Teenage Wedding by Chuck Berry (Pulp Fiction); First of all, any scene where John Travolta dances is worth taking a look at. It is a bizarre scene and it shows an event that brings Travolta and Thurman together.

Weekly movie trivia: In the two honorable mention scenes one actor is in the wrap up of the True Blue Scene and is in the setup for the Pulp Fiction dance scene. Who is the actor? (answer at bottom)

4. In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel; Say Anything: People forget that the son appears twice in the movie. The first time is when Ioni Skye and John Cusack have sex for the first time. The sex scene conveys the act and raw emotions of the two teenagers who are completely infatuated and have not been jaded by disingenuous lovers who date with agenda and not a true heart. The second time is where Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack in his best performance ever) holds the boom box over his heard to serenade Ioni Sky. This scene is great for allot of reasons. Lloyd is standing there strong, vulnerable and "without pride" telling the woman he loves that he wants to be with her and that will give her time and that although they are not together he loves her unconditionally. Lloyd Dobler puts beautifully and bravely puts his emotions in front of the whole world.

Yes, this scene is made fun of. But if you hear In Your Eyes what do you think of?

3. You make my Dreams come True by Hall and Oats; 500 Days of Summer: If you have not seen 500 Days of Summer quit what you are doing and go watch the movie. It is a great movie. It takes the formulaic romantic comedy, breaks all the rules and predictability while keeping the humor, reality and genuine heart in.
The scene takes place takes place the morning after Gordon Levit (second great and under seen movie he has stared in. The other was The Lookout. Go watch it now.) leaves Zoe Daschanel's apartment after they have sex for the first time. There is a truly magical moment when you make love to someone you truly care for an want to have a real relationship with. All is good in the wold. You can do anything. You believe that everything will be perfect. As Gordon walks down the street he has a glowing smile, he moves in a bouncing glide, a cartoon bird flies in (this surprisingly works in the scene), the people walking down the street with him pick up his vibe and start to move with him, taking up his walk that evolves to a dance as Hall and Oats is played. It is a completely unrealistic scene but it is incredibly emotionally elastic. The dancing and song perfectly reflect everything that Gordon is feeling. His heart was dancing.

2. Them from Jaws; Have you ever heard the ominous DaDa DaDa and not thought of Jaws? People forget that the shark does not appear until almost two thirds of the way through the movie. The song was the shark when you could not see the shark. The music took the place of the shark and became a character in the movie. The director took a huge chance. If it had not worked the director would never have gotten another movie. What ever happened to him?

1. Gonna Fly Now : Rocky, Rocky II and Rocky Balboa; A few years ago I was on the treadmill in the gym. Gonna Fly Now came on the gym sound system. I noticed that me and about half a dozen of the other people all increased the speed on their treadmills. If you go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art you ill see people running up the steps and raising their arms any time of the year. Rocky came out over 30 years ago. The fact that those scenes still generate such powerful emotions says allot about its impact and how that scene holds up.

Songs that barely missed the list:
Laid by James from American Pie
ABC by the Jackson 5 from Clerks 2
Overcome by Live from the last episode of season 2 of The Shield (not a movie but an amazing scene)

Weekly Movie Trivia answer: Steve Buschimi (he was Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs and the Waiter at Jack Rabit Slims in Pulp Fiction)

So what did I leave off? What should not have made it? Let me know.

The Movie Guy

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie Guy Blog 1: World's Greatest Dad

This month Randy Johnson, surprisingly not a porn star, retired from Major League Baseball. He retired with 5 Cy Young awards and 4,875 strike outs. What makes this future Hall of Famer so interesting is that when he came up to the Majors he had a great fastball and no control. It took him a few years but eventually he put all of the tools together and had a great career. That is what World's Greatest Dad was like. It had a ton of potential, a funny name and some interesting people involved and like the first few years of Randy Johnson's career this movie did not work.

The basic plot of the Bobcat Goldthwait written and directed film is that Robin Williams plays Lance, a failed writer who works as a high school English/poetry teacher. Lance is every school teacher who was inspired a little too much by Dead Poet's Society. Lance is divorced and has custody of his son, Kyle (played by Daryl Sabara of the Spy Kid's films). Kyle is virtually friendless, crude, offensive, lazy, insulting and is way to into porn. He is also into erotic asphyxiation. SPOILER ALLERT: Kyle accidently kills himself while masturbating. Lance discovers Kyle and in moment of pure pain and anguish decides to save his son one last moment of ridicule by writing a fake suicide note and staging Kyle's body to look like a suicide. After the suicide, the movie goes from being a crude comedy about an awkward and far too common relationship between parents and teenagers to a very dark comedy. When the school paper publishes Kyle's "suicide note", Lance achieves a higher social status. His classes become more popular, his ex-girlfriend comes over more, and Kyle goes from being a friendless social out cast to the most revered person in the school. Lance's behavior could be excused as a father trying to protect his son if he stopped there, but he doesn't. Lance produces Kyle's journals. These journals then catapult Lance to a national audience with offers for additional publishing and potential for fame and fortune.

World's Greatest Dad has some very funny moments. Daryl Sabara is very funny. He takes a one dimensional character and makes him real. He shows all of the insecurities of being a teenager who does not quite fit in with the bravado of youth. In an industry that chews up child actors and spits them out, I am curious about how Daryl will evolve.

While casting of Daryl Sabara was great, the film caused a distraction with the casting of a non-speaking role that has less than 30 seconds of film time. I have no idea why Bobcat Goldthwait would cast former Nirvana bassist, Kris Noveselic, in this role. Noveselic's musical career will always be partially defined by the death of Kurt Cobain. Noveselic’s role caused two problems. One, by being out of the spotlight for so long led me to think “is that him or not.” This took away from his one very funny/poignant scene. Second, because he is so tied to suicide seeing him led me to think about where I was when Cobain’s suicide was announced. This took me out of the moment and caused me to loose interest in the film. If Noveselic wants to act he should not choose films that deal with how someone profits by faking a suicide.

I hope people will watch World's Greatest Dad even though it is not very good. I want people to watch it because the movie takes chances. Goldthwait took a chance on casting the star of kid’s movies as a very crude, unlikeable character. I like that the script took a chance on making a joke about someone dying from erotic asphyxiation. I like that the movie did not cheat us by creating an artificially happy ending. Movies should take chances. Movie's should aim big and try for greatness. Movies should not take the easy way out. Movie's should not all follow a set formula. World's Greatest Dad does not follow the rules. While it is not a great film, films like this should be seen so that it makes money and we are not force fed a diet of formulaic romantic comedies and mind numbing "blockbusters" that exist for the sole purpose of making money.