Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 Film Wrap-Up

Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982) = 5

File:FD5 poster.jpg 
Final Destination 5 (Steven Quale, 2011) = 3

File:Robot and frank poster.jpg 
Robot & Frank (Jake Schreier, 2012) = 3.5

Birthday (James Harkness, 2009) = 4

File:Holy Motors poster.jpg    
Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012) = 3.5 

Cedar Rapids (Miguel Arteta, 2011) = 3 

File:Blue Car FilmPoster.jpeg  
Blue Car (Karen Moncrieff, 2002) = 3

I Am a Sex Addict (Caveh Zahedi, 2005) = 2.5

Greenberg (Noah Baumbach, 2010) = 4

The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985) = 5

Three O'Clock High (Phil Joanou, 1987) = 4

Talhotblond: (Barbara Schroeder, 2009) = 3 

Liberal Arts (Josh Radnor, 2012) = 4

Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, 1996) = 3.5

Like Crazy (Drake Doremus, 2011) = 2 

Santa with Muscles (John Murlowski, 1996) = 1

Man Bites Dog (Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel & Benoît Poelvoorde, 1992) = 4

Slums of Beverly Hills (Tamara Jenkins, 1998) = 4

Santa Sangre (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1989) = 4.5

Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (Peter Hewitt, 2012) = 2

Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1990) = 4.5 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Chris Columbus, 1992) = 5 

Delicatessen (Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1991) = 4.5

Word Wars (Eric Chaikin & Julian Petrillo, 2004) = 4

LOL (Laughing Out Loud) ® (Lisa Azuelos, 2008) = 3.5
Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972) = 4

THE BEST = While The Breakfast Club and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York are my 6th and 12th favourite films of all time, respectively, I began December with a film I will never forget. Fanny and Alexander impacted me greatly, and it's the most accomplished film about childhood I've ever seen. It is the best film I saw this month, and one of the best I've seen in my life, come to think of it.
THE WORST = Santa with Muscles is the worst film I saw in December. It was laughably bad in parts, but I knew of its reputation before watching it, so I wasn't too disappointed.

Notes: Three of the films this month were rewatches: Home Alone, Home Alone 2 and The Breakfast Club. I'm now up-to-date with the Final Destination series, and I must say I'm yet to be completely let down by any of the films in the series. Sure, some are better than others, but all of them have been fun. I think it's a shame more people haven't heard of Birthday. It's one of the better Australian films I've seen, with thoughtful dialogue and a positive depiction of sex workers. Holy Motors is certainly one of the more bizarre films I've seen in my life. I know many people rank it among the best films of 2012, but it didn't have the same effect on me. Its weirdness became a bit too inaccessible, although it contained some exceptionally beautiful scenes. I was very impressed by Ben Stiller in Greenberg, and would love to see him in more dramatic roles. This film solidified Noah Baumbach as one of my favourite directors, having loved both The Squid and the Whale and Kicking and Screaming. Three O'Clock High really surprised me. I was not expecting such an entertaining, well-paced film. I have a feeling it would be more recognised if John Hughes hadn't dominated the 1980s. I would advise to you skip the film Talhotblond: and just read up on the story behind it instead—very shocking. Josh Radnor made it two from two with Liberal Arts. He has a knack for great dialogue, although he has a lot of untapped potential as a director. Give him time; he'll get there. Breaking the Waves was a devastating film. I know a lot of people call it one of the best films of the 90s, but it was far too bleak for me to become invested in it. Don't get me wrong. It's a competent film, but it's something I admire more than I love. Like Crazy was so underwhelming and I did not care for a single character. Man Bites Dog is a great mockumentary. If you have a preference for dark humour, seek it out. Santa Sangre was phenomenal. It's so morbid yet so beautiful, and I will never forget some of the images from it. Delicatessen is one of those impossibly charming films that confirms why, at least to me, cinema is the greatest artistic medium. I never knew a saw could function as a musical instrument, but thanks to Delicatessen, I am now aware that it can. For a documentary about Scrabble, Word Wars is more compelling than you'd expect. Then again, I'm a massive word nerd so it wasn't a chore for me to sit through this at all. I think it makes a great companion piece to Wordplay, a documentary about compulsive crossword puzzlers. Now, you know my stance on sci-fi films. I'm not a fan. Alas, I finished December (and 2012) with Tarkovsky's Solaris and I thought it was quite gripping. It has an immersive quality brought about through its slow pacing, and I think I would watch more sci-fi films if they were about the human condition rather than specific missions and expeditions. Solaris is one of those films that isn't afraid to wax philosophical.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Top 20 Favourite Movie Posters

I'm bored, and nothing cures boredom like selecting a bunch of your favourite movie posters for a nice, lazy blog post. Below are my top 20 favourite movie posters. I'm using a mixture of theatrical release posters and home media posters.

20. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

19. April Fool's Day (Fred Walton, 1986)

18. Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine, 2009)

17. Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2010)

16. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

15. Hard Candy (David Slade, 2005)

14. Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982)

13. Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011)

12. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)

11. Palindromes (Todd Solondz, 2004)

10. Water Lilies (Céline Sciamma, 2007)

9. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)

8. Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009)

7. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)

6. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)

5. The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)

Note: The poster looks bland and abstract at first, but it's very clever because it foreshadows a pivotal scene in the movie. Haunting, really. 

4. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998)

3. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) 

2. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)

1. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

365-Day Film Challenge

In 2013, I aim to watch one film per day. I'm sure many film buffs already do this without considering it a 'challenge', but for me, one film per day for a whole year sounds exhausting! This challenge provides an opportunity to expand my tastes a little bit, and discover the films of directors I've never checked out but have always wanted to. The process involved in selecting 365 films was quite simple, although it wasn't easy. 365 is a larger number than it sounds. I scoured hundreds of IMDb pages, looking for films that piqued my interest. I read lists posted by fellow bloggers (e.g. "The scariest films of all time"). I asked friends for suggestions, and called on the wisdom of my Twitter followers. I would watch interviews with directors and hear about the films they were influenced by. I wanted a lot of great films to make the list, but I also left room for quite a few guilty pleasures and movies for lazy afternoons. I have films from all over the globe, and there were no criteria for films I could and couldn't select, other than the stipulation that every film had to be feature-length (no short films allowed). Because I am a meticulous person, I have designated a strict order in which to view the films. I already know what film I'll be watching on December 31, 2013 (or any other date next year, for that matter). You see, once I gathered all 365 titles, I put them through a random number generator to determine the order. One film per day for 2013, and I already know the exact dates I'll be watching each film. This is good because friends can see what I'm watching and when I'm watching it, and if they like the film, they can watch it with me. A random order is also good because it allows for diversity. A romantic comedy may follow a war film, for example. If I left the list intact, I'd have a string of horror films and a string of every Woody Allen film I'm yet to see. That's right, Woody Allen's films took up 32 places on the list. I added every single one I haven't seen. Some of the films on the list are ones I've already seen, but don't remember too well. Another viewing of these films would help immensely. Most of the films, however, are things I've never laid my eyes upon, and I can't wait to immerse myself in them. I understand that many of the films will be difficult to track down. I figure that if I can't find a title at my video rental store, at a DVD store, or on the Internet, it must be really obscure. If any of the films cannot be attained, I will replace it with something showing on TV that day (having Foxtel helps). If, for whatever reason, I do not have the time to squeeze a movie in for a particular day, I will watch two films the next day. Also, I'm not putting off trips to the cinema just for this challenge. There will be days where I watch a film at the cinema as well as a film from this list. I am mentally preparing myself for this challenge, and I am prepared for failure, yet also optimistic. Wish me luck, and if you suggested even one of the films that made this list, thank you. Your input is greatly appreciated.

1. The Seventh Continent (Michael Haneke, 1989)
2. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
3. Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1988)
4. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
5. A Short Film About Love (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1988)
6. The Godfather: Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
7. Tape (Richard Linklater, 2001)
8. Cape Fear (Martin Scorsese, 1991)
9. Arachnophobia (Frank Marshall, 1990)
10. Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980)
11. Man on the Moon (Milos Forman, 1999)
12. In the Mood for Love (Kar Wai Wong, 2000)
13. Amores perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000)
14. Death to Smoochy (Danny DeVito, 2002)
15. The Mudge Boy (Michael Burke, 2003)
16. Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen, 1996)
17. Wayne's World (Penelope Spheeris, 1992)
18. Husbands and Wives (Woody Allen, 1992)
19. Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, 2009)
20. Breakfast at Tiffany's (Blake Edwards, 1961)
21. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky, 2000)
22. Big Fish (Tim Burton, 2003)
23. Autumn Sonata (Ingmar Bergman, 1978)
24. Reprise (Joachim Trier, 2006)
25. What About Bob? (Frank Oz, 1991)
26. Planes, Trains & Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987)
27. Secretary (Steven Shainberg, 2002)
28. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
29. Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
30. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
31. Slugs, muerte viscosa (Juan Piquer Simón, 1988)

1. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)
2. Sleeper (Woody Allen, 1973)
3. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)
4. Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008)
5. 48 Shades (Daniel Lapaine, 2006)
6. The Bad Seed (Mervyn LeRoy, 1956)
7. The World According to Garp (George Roy Hill, 1982)
8. Exam (Stuart Hazeldine, 2009)
9. The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940)
10. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
11. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
12. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008)
13. The Sessions (Ben Lewin, 2012)
14. Less Than Zero (Marek Kanievska, 1987)
15. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Martin Scorsese, 1974)
16. Ms. 45 (Abel Ferrara, 1981)
17. Super Troopers (Jay Chandrasekhar, 2001)
18. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
19. Opening Night (John Cassavetes, 1977)
20. What's Up, Tiger Lily? (Woody Allen & Senkichi Taniguchi, 1966)
21. Starter for 10 (Tom Vaughan, 2006)
22. Once (John Carney, 2006)
23. The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)
24. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
25. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
26. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
27. Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen, 1969)
28. Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004)

1. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)
2. American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973)
3. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975)
4. Never Been Kissed (Gosnell, 1999)
5. Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994)
6. Angel Baby (Michael Rymer, 1995)
7. The Hairy Bird (Sarah Kernochan, 1998)
8. Adam (Max Mayer, 2009)
9. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
10. Bad Education (Pedro Almodóvar, 2004)
11. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
12. Mighty Aphrodite (Woody Allen, 1995)
13. Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010)
14. Small Time Crooks (Woody Allen, 2000)
15. Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971)
16. Last Train to Freo (Jeremy Sims, 2006)
17. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
18. City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
19. Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 1979)
20. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
21. The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)
22. Like Water for Chocolate (Alfonso Arau, 1992)
23. The Burning (Tony Maylam, 1981)
24. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)
25. Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
26. Killer Joe (William Friedkin, 2011)
27. Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961)
28. Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
29. Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991)
30. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982)
31. Delirious (Tom DiCillo, 2006)

1. Leon: The Professional (Luc Besson, 1994)
2. Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)
3. Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
4. The Acid House (Paul McGuigan, 1998)
5. Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, 2002)
6. Café de Flore (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2011)
7. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)
8. September (Woody Allen, 1987)
9. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
10. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Woody Allen, 2010)
11. Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow, 2012)
12. Don't Drink the Water (Woody Allen, 1994)
13. Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984)
14. Flipped (Rob Reiner, 2010)
15. Monster's Ball (Marc Forster, 2001)
16. Whatever Works (Woody Allen, 2009)
17. Hollywood Ending (Woody Allen, 2002)
18. Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992)
19. Paperhouse (Bernard Rose, 1988)
20. Cassandra's Dream (Woody Allen, 2007)
21. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (Woody Allen, 2001)
22. The Devil's Rejects (Rob Zombie, 2005)
23. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)
24. Being There (Hal Ashby, 1979)
25. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
26. After Life (Hirokazu Koreeda, 1998)
27. The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 1985)
28. 3 Idiots (Rajkumar Hirani, 2009)
29. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
30. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)

1. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
2. Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950)
3. Muriel's Wedding (P.J. Hogan, 1994)
4. Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008)
5. Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984)
6. St. Elmo's Fire (Joel Schumacher, 1985)
7. Benny's Video (Michael Haneke, 1992)
8. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
9. The Terminal (Steven Spielberg, 2004)
10. Bug (William Friedkin, 2006)
11. The Vicious Kind (Lee Toland Krieger, 2009)
12. Dark Horse (Todd Solondz, 2011)
13. I Stand Alone (Gaspar Noé, 1998)
14. Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks, 1955)
15. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
16. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
17. The Daytrippers (Greg Mottola, 1996)
18. Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff, 2003)
19. Daydream Nation (Michael Goldbach, 2010)
20. Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)
21. Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (Michael Haneke, 2000)
22. The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne, 2009)
23. Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995)
24. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
25. Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)
26. Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968)
27. The Daydreams of Angels (Erick Zonca, 1998)
28. Man on Wire (James Marsh, 2008)
29. Funny People (Judd Apatow, 2009)
30. Kidulthood (Menhaj Huda, 2006)
31. Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)

1. But I'm a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999)
2. Lilya 4-ever (Lukas Moodysson, 2002)
3. Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen, 1999)
4. Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991)
5. Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)
6. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
7. Lost and Delirious (Léa Pool, 2001)
8. Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003)
9. Fracture (Gregory Hoblit, 2007)
10. Paris, je t'aime (Various directors, 2006)
11. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
12. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)
13. The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)
14. Puberty Blues (Bruce Beresford, 1981)
15. Romper Stomper (Geoffrey Wright, 1992)
16. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
17. Last Night (Massy Tadjedin, 2010)
18. Departures (Yôjirô Takita, 2008)
19. Fried Green Tomatoes (Jon Avnet, 1991)
20. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
21. Celeste & Jesse Forever (Lee Toland Krieger, 2012)
22. The Puffy Chair (Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass, 2005)
23. Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos, 2009)
24. V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005)
25. The Birthday Party (William Friedkin, 1968)
26. Love Me If You Dare (Yann Samuell, 2003)
27. The Savages (Tamara Jenkins, 2007)
28. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008)
29. Bad Taste (Peter Jackson, 1987)
30. Yi Yi: A One and a Two... (Edward Yang, 2000)

1. Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004)
2. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
3. Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)
4. Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)
5. The Sentinel (Michael Winner, 1977)
6. Orgazmo (Trey Parker, 1997)
7. Speaking of Sex (John McNaughton, 2001)
8. The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)
9. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
10. Cactus (Jasmine Yuen Carrucan, 2008)
11. Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952)
12. Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980)
13. A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983)
14. Another Woman (Woody Allen, 1988)
15. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
16. The Tenant (Roman Polanski, 1976)
17. Paris (Cédric Klapisch, 2008)
18. My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
19. Logan's Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)
20. The Silence (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)
21. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
22. Dead Man Drinking (Rohan Harris, 2008)
23. Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, 2011)
24. House of Sand and Fog (Vadim Perelman, 2003)
25. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
26. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
27. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
28. Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989)
29. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
30. Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki, 2011)
31. Powder (Victor Salva, 1995)

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
2. Switchblade Romance (Alexandre Aja, 2003)
3. Eden Lake (James Watkins, 2008)
4. Survive Style 5+ (Gen Sekiguchi, 2004)
5. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Jonathan Levine, 2006)
6. Phoebe in Wonderland (Daniel Barnz, 2008)
7. Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
8. Chicken with Plums (Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi, 2011)
9. Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981)
10. City Island (Raymond De Felitta, 2009)
11. Pretty in Pink (Howard Deutch, 1986)
12. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)
13. Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (Woody Allen, 1972)
14. Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012)
15. Critters (Stephen Herek, 1986)
16. Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)
17. The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
18. Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)
19. Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1995)
20. Anything Else (Woody Allen, 2003)
21. Lake of Fire (Tony Kaye, 2006)
22. Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
23. All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green, 2003)
24. La strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)
25. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
26. The Most Dangerous Game (Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1932)
27. Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008)
28. An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)
29. The Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985)
30. The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007)
31. The Gods Must Be Crazy (Jamie Uys, 1980)

1. The History Boys (Nicholas Hytner, 2006)
2. This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
3. Bullets Over Broadway (Woody Allen, 1994)
4. The Player (Robert Altman, 1992)
5. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson, 2000)
6. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
7. 3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977)
8. The Burning Plain (Guillermo Arriaga, 2008)
9. Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009)
10. Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)
11.  (Federico Fellini, 1963)
12. Fargo (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, 1996)
13. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
14. The Black Balloon (Elissa Down, 2008)
15. Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, David Silverman & Lee Unkrich, 2001)
16. Visitor Q (Takashi Miike, 2001)
17. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
18. Providence (Alain Resnais, 1977)
19. Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz, 2009)
20. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
21. After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
22. The Holiday (Nancy Meyers, 2006)
23. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
24. The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)
25. Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986)
26. World's Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2009)
27. I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004)
28. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker, 1980)
29. Thank You for Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005)
30. The Machinist (Brad Anderson, 2004)

1. Radio Days (Woody Allen, 1987)
2. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (Woody Allen, 1982)
3. Rest Stop (John Shiban, 2006)
4. City of God (Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund, 2002)
5. Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
6. Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993)
7. Rain (Christine Jeffs, 2001)
8. Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)
9. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
10. Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
11. Wait Until Dark (Terence Young, 1967)
12. Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)
13. The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
14. Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
15. Clerks II (Kevin Smith, 2006)
16. Porky's (Bob Clark, 1982)
17. Les diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
18. Footnote (Joseph Cedar, 2011)
19. Celebrity (Woody Allen, 1998)
20. Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
21. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999)
22. Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, 2011)
23. Shattered Glass (Billy Ray, 2003)
24. Kids (Larry Clark, 1995)
25. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004)
26. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
27. Akeelah and the Bee (Doug Atchison, 2006)
28. Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996)
29. Intouchables (Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano, 2011)
30. Husbands (John Cassavetes, 1970)
31. Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)

1. Now Is Good (Ol Parker, 2012)
2. Vivre Sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)
3. Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932)
4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Milos Forman, 1975)
5. Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen, 1984)
6. The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001)
7. A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton, 1988)
8. Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 1936)
9. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
10. A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
11. Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
12. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
13. New York Stories (Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola & Martin Scorsese, 1989)
14. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)
15. Risky Business (Paul Brickman, 1983)
16. Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001)
17. The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008)
18. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
19. Away We Go (Sam Mendes, 2009)
20. The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 1979)
21. Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)
22. In the Bedroom (Todd Field, 2001)
23. Interiors (Woody Allen, 1978)
24. Jack Goes Boating (Philip Seymour Hoffman, 2010)
25. Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985)
26. Stardust Memories (Woody Allen, 1980)
27. Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950)
28. The Indian Runner (Sean Penn, 1991)
29. In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)
30. Reality Bites (Ben Stiller, 1994)

1. Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)
2. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
3. Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen, 1991)
4. When Harry Met Sally... (Rob Reiner, 1989)
5. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich, 2003)
6. Scum (Alan Clarke, 1979)
7. Red Eye (Wes Craven, 2005)
8. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
9. Scoop (Woody Allen, 2006)
10. Alice (Woody Allen, 1990)
11. Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan, 2001)
12. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989)
13. The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)
14. Pretty Persuasion (Marcos Siega, 2005)
15. The Vanishing (George Sluizer, 1988)
16. Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960)
17. Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)
18. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
19. The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927)
20. Manhattan Murder Mystery (Woody Allen, 1993)
21. Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)
22. Welcome to the Sticks (Dany Boon, 2008)
23. The Sadist (James Landis, 1963)
24. Water Lilies (Céline Sciamma, 2007)
25. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher, 2012)
26. Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
27. Panic Room (David Fincher, 2002)
28. Dead Man's Shoes (Shane Meadows, 2004)
29. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
30. The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)
31. Melinda and Melinda (Woody Allen, 2004)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: Liberal Arts (2012)

Director: Josh Radnor
Writer: Josh Radnor 
Stars: Josh RadnorElizabeth Olsen and Zac Efron

I was expecting great things going into my screening of Liberal Arts. Josh Radnor's directorial debut, Happythankyoumoreplease, had pleased me quite a bit, and I was hoping he'd make it two from two with this film. I walked out of the cinema even more satisfied than I expected to be. Liberal Arts is a delightful film—perhaps the best film about college I've seen since Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming (1995). I say it's about college, which is only half-true. Liberal Arts is mainly about the way people come in and out of our lives. It's also about the contrast between past and present. The film decries the empty pleasure of nostalgia in favour of the ripe opportunities offered by the present. A lot of films about college life focus on teenagers at a crossroads, but in Radnor's film, the adults are the ones in need of direction. This is why the movie works so well.

Looking at the film's poster, you'd assume this is a conventional romance with a splash of comedy. After all, there's that famous line from Hitchcock's Vertigo: "Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere." I will not reveal whether or not these two main characters go somewhere, but I will give you some context. Radnor stars as Jesse Fisher, a 35 year-old college admissions officer who is contacted by one of his former college professors, Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins). Peter is [reluctantly] retiring and would like Jesse to attend his retirement party. Jesse complies, and returns to his alma mater in Ohio. Peter introduces Jesse to Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19 year-old improv drama student who is the daughter of his friends. Jesse and Zibby strike up a bond over the arts—in particular literature and classical music. They correspond via handwritten letters once Jesse returns to New York, but Zibby starts to miss having Jesse around, so Jesse returns to Ohio, and must consider how far he takes his relationship with a girl 16 years his junior.  

The first thing you should know about this film is that it is jam-packed with cultural references and reflections on great works of literature and music. If all you read is cereal boxes and the pamphlets that arrive in your mail, you may not enjoy this film. At times, it seems as though Radnor is using the film to spout his own status as an aesthete. That said, this is far from pseudo-intellectualism. Radnor holds a B.A. in Drama as well as a Master of Fine Arts, so he isn't exactly writing beyond his means. There's an old adage: "Write what you know," and Radnor is simply writing what he knows—the arts, and the emotions they stir up in him. Radnor shows great respect for the intellect of his audience. This is proven in a scene where Jesse meets an emotionally unstable student named Dean (John Magaro). Dean is holding David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. We see the book, but the camera doesn't focus on it. We can't see the title and not a single character mentions it. If you know your books, you'll be able to deduce that the book is Infinite Jest based on Jesse's comments about how long it is. It also helps that we can vaguely make out the cover design. Many people will dismiss Radnor as smug and egocentric for casting himself in a role where he gets to be romantic with Elizabeth Olsen (and Allison Janney). These are probably the same people who detest Woody Allen. Well, I say, "Who cares?" If Radnor feels he can inhabit the character better than anyone else, then I say go for it.

There are so many memorable one-liners in the film—not ones that make you laugh, but ones that make you think. Underneath Liberal Arts' breezy exterior lies serious commentary on the predicament of getting older and other existential crises. I think Peter has the best line in the movie. He quips, "Nobody feels like an adult. That's the world's dirty secret." There's another line that resonated with me, personally, considering I saw this film exactly one month away from my 20th birthday. Once again, it's from Peter. He says, "Since I was 19, I've never felt like I was not 19." The film is also great at articulating the things we leave unsaid for fear of embarrassment or reproach. In one pivotal scene, Zibby tells Jesse that she enjoys a series of young-adult vampire-romance novels (a reference to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and similar books). Jesse cannot fathom this, and reads one of the books to see what the fuss is all about. His verdict is that it is the worst book ever written in the English language, and this starts an argument with Zibby. The central truth espoused through this scene is that we hate it when people like things that we don't, because it destroys our conceptualisation of that person. As much as we try to accept that person's taste, we can't, and it's irrational. 

There is not a single bad performance to be seen here. Radnor seems to have carried over his everyman style of acting that he showcased in Happythankyoumoreplease. It's convincing that Zibby could fall in love with him, even despite that noteworthy age difference. Olsen plays Zibby as a girl who is at once extremely confident and yet so naive and fickle. It's really amazing how quickly she can go from extreme to extreme. This is a girl who, as a student of improv drama, can make anything happen. However, when she's not on the theatre stage, improvisation does not have the power to solve absolutely everything. As usual, Richard Jenkins is flawless, and it still annoys me that he hasn't had many starring roles in his career. Allison Janney is brilliant as Professor Fairfield, Jesse's favourite professor of all time. She brings sardonic wit to the role, and smashes Jesse's perception that she is the amiable, enthusiastic professor who taught him about the Romantics all those years ago. The performance that surprised me the most is that of Zac Efron. He plays an eccentric slacker who occasionally pops up on campus with the intention of making people feel good. Efron's role would not have been difficult to play, but he is a perfect fit for it. When he tells Jesse, "You look like an Ethan," it's funny because, to me at least, Josh Radnor does look like his name could be Ethan. He has the face of an Ethan. 

I'm in awe of how Radnor, at the age of 38, has written and directed a film that is so emotionally mature. Some critics have dismissed Liberal Arts as a feature-length sitcom or soap opera. I strongly disagree. We're never quite sure which characters to root for. They all have their flaws and their intentions are cryptic, but not frustratingly so. I admire how realistic it is, and I particularly enjoyed the moments where I felt like a fly on the wall, eavesdropping on Jesse and Zibby's conversations as they strolled through the pristine grounds of Kenyon College. In a way, it evoked shades of Linklater's Before Sunrise, except Zibby and Jesse did not need to travel abroad to meet each other. With Happythankyoumoreplease and Liberal Arts under his belt, Josh Radnor is emerging as one of the most perceptive writers for films about twentysomethings and those just below or above that demographic. He has an eye for how people talk and behave, and his human insights sit somewhere in between Alexander Payne and Miranda July. I really hope people begin to acknowledge him as something other than Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother

We all like to sentimentalise the past. There is great pleasure in reminiscing about the days of old, but, as some of you may have found out the hard way, returning to your old stomping ground rarely holds up to what you think it will be. School reunions only remind us that we're getting old. Returning to an old picnic spot may only hurt you if you notice the surrounding trees have been cut down. A movie you adored in your childhood turns out to be complete and utter trash when you revisit it as an adult. There is an inevitable disconnect between the past and the present. Things change. So do people. You can't grow as a person if you insist on clinging to one fragment of your life. You have to suck it up and embrace what is present. The Portuguese have a word describing an intense longing for someone or something that you know will never return. The word is saudade, and it's this emotion that ultimately underpins Liberal Arts.

4/5 stars.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Quick Explanation of What My Star Ratings Mean

Whenever I see a film, old or new, I award it a rating out of 5, with the lowest possible rating being 0.5. I do not believe in zero-star ratings, as EVERY film requires some effort, even if it is atrocious and contains objectionable content. I thought I'd take the time to outline the meaning behind each of my ratings, and provide some examples of films that satisfy each rating (according to me, of course).

It's worth noting that my philosophy behind ratings is similar to that of Roger Ebert, except Ebert rates films out of four stars, and I rate them out of five. Ebert has written:

"When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then The United States of Leland clocks in at about two."

So, it's all relative. Did you know I gave 4.5 stars to American Pie Presents The Naked Mile? I'm not kidding. I thought it had a lot of heart considering it was a direct-to-video teen sex comedy. As far as teen sex comedies go, it's a great one, and I was shocked at how much it tried. Does this mean it's a better movie than, say, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (which I awarded 4 stars)? No, it doesn't. When I rated The Master, I did it through the lens of drama, considering how it stacks up against other dramas and character studies. Although, I will admit I was more entertained by The Naked Mile than The Master. (Did all my credibility go down the drain with that last sentence?)

Anyway, here is my personal meaning behind each star rating:

★★★★★ = A film that is not only watched, but also experienced. A five-star film could potentially change the way you see the world. In order for me to award a film 5 stars, I must find it technically stunning and entertaining. If I watch a classic film that was executed so brilliantly but is also rather boring, it's unlikely I'll give it 5 stars. It should be noted that I have given 5 stars to films because I have a nostalgic connection to them and grew up on them (most notably Home Alone 2: Lost in New York). Three films I have given 5 stars to: American Beauty, Apocalypse Now, The Shining.

★★★★½ = Amazing films that you should go out of your way to see. There may have been one slight flaw that made me refrain from giving it a perfect rating, but the flaw is so slight and irrelevant that it won't ruin your experience at all. Three films I have given 4.5 stars to: Requiem for a Dream, The Ice Storm, Fight Club.

★★★★ = An impressive work that I would happily watch again. There are maybe one or two things I didn't like about it, but it's definitely worth a watch. Three films I have given 4 stars to: The Godfather, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Full Metal Jacket.

★★★½ = A good film, but a little frustrating because it could have been a lot better. A film that gets 3.5 might be well-written but poorly directed, or have great performances driving a silly plot. Three films I have given 3.5 stars to: The Cabin in the Woods, (500) Days of Summer, Being John Malkovich.

★★★ = There are more positives than negatives, but it's not entirely satisfying. I would watch this film only if you're a serious fan of its director or one of the actors in it. That said, films like this are ideal for lazy afternoons. Three films I have given 3 stars to: Cedar Rapids, About Schmidt, Igby Goes Down.

★★½ = A very average movie that only just gets a pass. It's not unwatchable, but it's certainly not worth your time. Has some good moments, but not enough for me to recommend it. Three films I have given 2.5 stars to: Forrest Gump, The Cable Guy, The Tree of Life. Actually, I'll make an exception with The Tree of Life. Although I gave it 2.5, I definitely think everyone should see it. You'll either get it or you won't. I didn't.

★★ = Very disappointing, but not completely devoid of merit. I didn't enjoy it, but I could see it was trying to say something, or that it wanted to be good. Three films I have given 2 stars to: Tropic Thunder, Gummo, Paranormal Activity.

★½ = A mess of a movie. Perhaps it entertained me in a few spots, but it's too sloppy and uninspired to deserve anything higher. Cringeworthy in parts. Three films I have given 1.5 stars to: Project X, Afterschool, You Don't Mess With the Zohan.

★ = A very bad film that is painful to sit through. Do not bother. Three films I have given 1 star to: Napoleon Dynamite, The Hangover Part II, The Evil Dead.

½ = Every single moment was torturous, and I would not subject my most despised enemy to a viewing of it. It's offensively bad, and it depresses me that people invested money in making it. Do not watch these movies, not even out of curiosity. They stink. Three films (or is that movies?) I have given half a star to: V/H/S, Saw V, Meet the Spartans.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Apocalypse Now (1979)

I held a film trivia game on Twitter and the prize for the winner is that he/she could pick the next topic for my blog (as long as it was film-related). Jessy Williams won the competition (you can read her pieces on Filmoria here), and she asked me to write about the best film I saw in November. That film would be Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. What follows is not a review, but rather my reflections on this haunting masterpiece. As a result, I will not be withholding spoilers. I should also stress that this post is about the original version of the film, not the 203-minute Redux version.

I am very surprised that what most people remember about this film is that quote from Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall): "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." While this quote is a very good one, the film does not deserve to be reduced to a petty platitude. I was a little apprehensive about seeing this film. I've never been a great fan of war films, and I was worried I would not understand a lot of the film because I would be unfamiliar with the conventions of the genre. By the end of the film, I realised two things: 1) That Apocalypse Now is by no means conventional, and 2) That it only uses the Vietnam War as its conduit to espouse truths about the human psyche. I think, in a traditional war film, the most pertinent issue is who wins and loses. Apocalypse Now is about the psychology and theatre of war, rather than the political ramifications of its outcome. 

The mind games begin before we even get a glimpse of warfare. At the start of the film, U.S. Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) is tasked with a mission. He must travel to the murky depths of the Cambodian jungle to find and kill Colonel Walter E. Kurtz of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) is a renegade who is believed to have gone insane and taken charge of a group of Montagnard troops in neutral Cambodia. It is certainly not easy to kill a man of your own country in a context as patriotically-charged as a war, and it is even more difficult when your target is someone as formidable as Kurtz. 

The tension reaches its peak when Willard arrives at Kurtz's outpost. Willard passes dead bodies and severed heads. They're strewn all about the place, but he's fairly desensitised after all he's been through in the past 24 hours. Kurtz lives in a dark temple where the flicker of candlelight casts a harsh glow over his face. We hear a voice-over from Willard's point of view, "It smelled like slow death in there—malaria, nightmares. This was the end of the river, alright." Kurtz may be a fearsome figure, but he is no idiot. He launches into a monologue whereby he tells Willard how wars are won. Kurtz explains that he became enamoured with the ruthlessness of the Viet Cong. He saw genius in the way they could kill without letting reason intervene. He was attracted to the idea of allowing primitive instincts to run their course. He concludes the monologue with "It's judgement that defeats us." Kurtz recites an excerpt from T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men, and we then hear from Dennis Hopper who plays a charismatic photojournalist. He tells Willard that Kurtz is talking about dialectics—the deduction of truth from opinion, and separating things into black and white with no grey in between. He states, "...there's only love and hate, you either love somebody or you hate them." In the theatre of war, there is only room for moral absolutism. Killing people is certainly not pretty, but in this context, it's often necessary.

The film also says a lot about the hypocrisy of the U.S. soldiers. We see an air strike where the Americans pick off the Vietnamese civilians with the same glee a young boy feels when he discovers how to use a slingshot. There is something morally unsound about expending time and effort to killing one man (Kurtz) when you mercilessly dispose of so many innocents along the way—not to mention that your own troops are dropping off one by one. The shallow values of the Americans are illustrated on a few occasions, most notably during a scene where they visit a military supply post and watch a USO show featuring Playboy Playmates. The U.S. soldiers noisily fawn over the women, while the few visible Vietnamese villagers seem relatively nonchalant and calmly eat rice. There's a scene where one of the American soldiers is water-skiing to the tune of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. He is splashing water into the sampans of Vietnamese fishermen and knocking natives off their boats. Through this loud display of cockiness, the Americans seem to be making themselves at home. But making oneself at home is not the same as being at home, as evidenced by Willard's voice-over, "The more they tried to make it just like home, the more they made everybody miss it."   

The psychological effects of war are evident in a scene where Chef (Frederic Forrest) enters the jungle and encounters a tiger. It's understandable that anyone would be frightened in this situation, but Chef isn't merely frightened. This experience mentally scars him, and he is a lot more mentally unstable from that point on. But it is the character of Willard who best illustrates how the human mind is warped by warfare and the horror of grisly sights. Willard is successful in killing Kurtz. The murder is quick and not theatrically emphatic. Kurtz's last words are "The horror...the horror." The Cambodian villagers make room for Willard to walk back to his boat. They fix their gazes on him and stare at him as though he were a demigod. This is the man who has slain their seemingly invincible deity. As Willard sails away with his fellow crewman, Lance, Kurtz's final words echo as we see Willard's transparent face. The film ends here, and we wonder if Willard will ever function as a sane man again. What began as a mission became an obsession, and while Kurtz may have been killed, we entertain the possibility that death is a better fate than living with horrific memories that are at once vivid and unrelenting. 

The last thing I'll say about this film is that Vittorio Storaro's cinematography is exquisite. As I was watching the film, it almost slipped my mind that it was about the Vietnam War, because war has rarely been depicted so beautifully. I especially love this scene where Lance deploys a purple smoke grenade. The splendour and vitality of the smoke is juxtaposed with the still and murky waters of the Nung River.