Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Ten top 10's for the AFI special...

I can’t really predict what the AFI will choose for their 10 top 10’s, but these are the choices I would make, alphabetical by genre. Animation – 101 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast, Cars, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Fantasia, Finding Nemo, Hoppity Goes to Town, The Mask, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Toy Story (Too bad Nick Park’s short films collected as The Amazing Adventures of Wallace and Gromit aren’t eligible, they all deservedly won Oscars. Jason and the Argonauts, belongs here too but was a mix of live-action and animation; Ray Harryhausen was a true artist. Mary Poppins should be here also another live-animation mix.) Courtroom Drama – 12 Angry Men, Adam’s Rib, Anatomy of a Murder, Breaker Morant, The Caine Mutiny, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, Runaway Jury, To Kill a Mockingbird, Witness for the Prosecution (Is Agatha Christie's Witness going to be considered a mystery instead? if so, put The Rainmaker here. Definitely not Kramer vs Kramer or A Few Good Men, they'll probably include both due to popularity, and Adam's Rib was really a comedy anyway, but you gotta put it somewhere.) Epic – The Bridge On the River Kwai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Gandhi, The Gangs of New York, Gladiator, Hero (the Chinese one with Jet Li), The Last Emperor, Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, The Seven Samurai (If Seven Samurai is elibigle, that would replace Ben-Hur, which was pretty boring other than the ship battle and the chariot race. Sergi Bondarchuk's 7-hr Russian "War and Peace" should be here too, but was also, like the book, way too long and had a Hollywood ending; but it did have 250,000 Red Army extras and cost 100 million in the early 70's; that's like a trillion now, right? Which was really a better film: Doctor Zhivago or Reds?) I've got SIX best pictures listed... Fantasy – 5000 Fingers of Doctor T, Babe, Batman, Dr. Strangelove, Field of Dreams, Ghostbusters, It’s a Wonderful Life, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Will they consider a trilogy as one or three separate films? To me, if it’s one story then it’s one long film. With Pirates, I liked Dead Man’s Chest the most, and Return of the King from the Rings trilogy) Gangster – The Big Sleep, Bonnie and Clyde, The Departed, The Godfather, The Godfather II, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, Pulp Fiction, The Replacement Killers, Witness (didn't know where to put this; if not eligible, then The Yakuza. Little Caesar belong here as well: "You can still dish it out but you just can't take it anymore!") Mystery – The Conversation, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Memento, The Name of the Rose, Out of the Past, Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, Sleuth (Is Maltese Falcon really a gangster film, and is Silence a mystery, or suspense, where you know the criminal beforehand?) Romantic Comedy – A Room With a View, Annie Hall, The Graduate, Groundhog Day, Hannah and Her Sisters, My Fair Lady, Parenthood, Raising Arizona, Shakespeare in Love, When Harry Met Sally (Are both A Room with a View and Much Ado About Nothing ineligible since they’re both British? They definitely belong here. If Room or Shakespeare are ineligible, I would add Beautiful Girls to this genre, maybe even Singin' in the Rain: "I ain't people, I am a shining star in the firmament".) Science Fiction – 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aliens, Back to the Future, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, The Empire Strikes Back, E.T., The Matrix, Star Wars Trilogy, Terminator 2 (The Road Warrior belongs here but is it really science fiction, or action/adventure? A better film than half of these! If they break up the Star Wars trilogy, I liked The Empire Strikes Back the best) Sports – Breaking Away, Cinderella Man, Friday Night Lights, Glory Road, Hoop Dreams, Million Dollar Baby, The Natural, Pride of the Yankees, Raging Bull, Seabiscuit remake. (They’ll have Rocky here but I hated its contrived and predictable story, I kept pulling for him to get pummeled right out of boxing; even the original Bad News Bears was a better sports film. Also, Requiem for a Heavyweight belongs here but wasn’t that a TV movie? Even Golden Boy, bw w William Holden, was a better boxing film) Western – Dances with Wolves, The Grey Fox, High Noon, Hud, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Open Range, Shane, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Unforgiven (Hud is a modern western, doesn’t that count? The Searchers is overrated and racist, I prefer “Yellow Ribbon” of all the John Ford westerns. Lonesome Dove was a tv "mini-series", as was The Broken Trail, but both belong here, and both starred Robert Duvall, as did Open Range; as he put it "my western trilogy".) Author’s Notes: I’m not certain that their list is limited to American films, and if not I would definitely place Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring (French, one novel in two parts) in epic, City of God (Brazil) in gangster, and Diva (French) in mystery. I’m also not sure if they will consider Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon a U.S. or Chinese film, nor if they would consider Dr. Strangelove a fantasy, but this is such a great film that it belongs somewhere; technically it’s a comedy, but not “romantic”, same with Airplane! and M*A*S*H. Is Field of Dreams a Fantasy or a Sports film? I’ve often had this argument with people, it’s a parable about the spiritual realm, and uses baseball for a metaphor, but is not about a sport. I’m also certain that the AFI will include some films I think are highly overrated like Gone With the Wind and Rocky

Friday, May 16, 2008

The American Film Institute Top 10 Special, June 17th

Don't miss the upcoming special from the non-profit American Film Institute, its Emmy-award winning "AFI's 100 Years..." television series. This year they've altered the format; instead of 100 films related to a single genre, this time they will feature AFI'S 10 TOP 10 – the top ten films in ten different genres: animation, fantasy, science fiction, gangster, western, sports, romantic comedy, courtroom drama, mystery and epic films. (What: no musicals? no war films? regular comedy that isn't "romantic"? Romances that aren't comedies?) The show will air Tuesday, June 17 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS. Each of the 10 film genres will feature a different host (we’ll give you a heads up in the next couple of weeks of who they are) and the films in each list will be the definitive best as selected by over 1,500 leaders in the film community. You are unable to vote, however you can still check out the AFI lists, download the ballot for this year’s show on the AFI website (registration required, FYI): AFI 100 Years List and predict who you think the winners will be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No Country for Atonement of Michael Clayton in the Wild

I finally got to see all the major films nominated for Oscars and other awards this year. It was actually quite an impressive batch of films. These were my favorite:
  1. No Country for Old Men - always loved the Coen Brothers, this was probably their most eloquent and poetic film, yet remaining enigmatic and unique throughout. I still enjoyed Raising Arizona most of theirs, but No Country is a more classic artistic success, both giving tribute to film noir without just copying the style and taking it to perhaps a new level in expression, much the same as Pulp Fiction did to the dime novel style of crime fiction.
  2. Atonement - this had the best epic feel of classic movies, bringing to mind David Lean and classic Victorian novels and perhaps even Brideshead Revisited, the epic TV series. This was also the best story of any of the award films. Vanessa Redgrave gave an Oscar worthy performance in five minutes. The long tracking scene of the main character arriving at Dunkirk, that follows him along the beach and past a bandstand, carousel, finally to the deck of a cantina overlooking the entire scene, is one of the most memorable in recent films. It calls to mind scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge Over the River Kwai, The Longest Day and other epic war films. The green dress designed for Kiera Knightly is simply the most seductive dress in all of film history.
  3. In the Wild - this true story of a non-conformist Georgia youth searching for himself and wisdom in the solitude of nature is a terrific near-mythic parable of individuality in primal nature. Director Sean Penn raises it to an almost religious exerience. Not to be missed.
  4. Michael Clayton - I liked this story a lot, and the Oscar-winning performance of Tilda Swinton. I can't say much without giving away something, but an excellent legal drama with good plot twists.
  5. The Bourne Ultimatum - Enjoyed all the Bourne films, this one is perhaps the most exciting, won a couple of Oscars for sound. Make sure you've seen the first two however, as the story of Matt Damon's title character is a progressive one (connected to memory loss) including those of all the peripheral characters as well.
  6. Pirates 3: At World's End - I've enjoyed all three Pirates of the Caribbean films (Dead Man's Chest the most), I can see how they appeal to both children and adults, with specials effects that dwarf Indiana Jones, and totally preposterous events, such as the swordfight inside the rolling water wheel in Dead Man's Chest. Everything about these is actually quite perfect, and are the first pirate movies to ever make a profit, believe it or not. Not sure about the Best Acting nomination for Depp in the first however, not among his best performances of Finding Neverland, The Libertine, and Sweeney Todd.
  7. Elizabeth: The Golden Age - simply ethereal costumes, which deservedly won an Oscar. This story was not as lyrical or mythical as the first, however, not as interesting, just didn't grab and hold you like the first.
Just a word about other recent films: Thank You for Smoking, from last year, was also nearly flawless, a very underrated film, and a comedy that made an important statement, or several. The Departed, though very good, wasn't Scorcese's best recent movie: Gangs of New York was a major achievement, as epic a movie about U.S. history as you'll ever see, and Daniel-Day Lewis' performance of Bill the Butcher is one of the all-time great movie villains, totally unforgettable, who won every award that year except the Oscar (go figure).

Friday, May 9, 2008

World's Best Action and Adventure

Action and / or adventure films Films in gold won Best Picture Oscars®
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Around the World in 80 Days (original)
  • Batman
  • Ben-Hur (10 Oscars)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China)
  • El Mariachi (Mexico)
  • The French Connection
  • The Game
  • Gladiator
  • Hero (Jet Li's, China)
  • La Femme Nikita (France)
  • The Man Who Would Be King
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy
  • The Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Replacement Killers
  • The Right Stuff
  • The Road Warrior
  • Run, Lola, Run (German)
  • The Seven Samurai (Japan, bw)
  • Spiderman
  • The Stunt Man
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • V For Vendetta
We now have to include "Jet Li's" with the Chinese film Hero due to a U.S. one with the same name. This one involved two directors and had an incredible sequence used by BOSE for a tv surround sound system ad. Jet said it was the greatest script he had ever read. The Seven Samurai was the basis for the Western The Magnificent Seven, and for the space film Battle Beyond the Stars. People laughed at me when I saw Gladiator at the theater and told them it would get at least five Oscar nominations if people saw it. V For Vendetta is by the Washowski Brothers, who gave us the Matrix Trilogy. This revolutionary tome is even better, see if you recognize the voice behind the mask!

World's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy

The worlds best fantasy and science fiction films
Runners-Up: 2010, A Boy and His Dog, The Abyss, Outland, Silent Running, Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, The Wrath of Khan, Vanilla Sky, 2046 (Japan), Gulliver's Travels (mini-series)

The Prisoner was actor Patrick McGoohan's tv sequel to his first show, Secret Agent Man, and still has a large cult following due to its originality and statements about brainwashing, freedom, individuality, non-conformity, and government repression. It was planned as a 16-part complete series with an ending, first time ever on television, and British of course.

A Clockwork Orange was good, and the first and maybe only film rated X for violence (tame by today's standards), but the book was phenomenol, one of the best ever, Burgess wrote it to exorcise demons from a real life home invasion by a gang. The entire book was in Alex's vernacular, and later editions had a necessary glossary of the invented slang. "Hey, Billy Boy, come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles that is, ya eunuch jelly thou."

Big Fish is my favorite Tim Burton film, a beautiful fantasy of tall tales.

Where to you put Poltergeist, is it horror or science fiction? Same with Aliens.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

World's Best Sports Films

Films in gold won Best Picture Oscars®
  • Breaking Away
  • Bull Durham
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Field of Dreams
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Glory Road
  • Golden Boy
  • The Great White Hope
  • Hoop Dreams (doc.)
  • Hoosiers
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • The Natural
  • Phar Lap
  • Pride of the Yankees
  • Raging Bull
  • Requiem for a Heavyweight
  • Seabiscuit (remake)
I guess I stretched a bit to make a sports list, as Bull Durham and Breaking Away belong in comedy, and Field of Dreams in fantasy & science fiction. Five boxing films and no Rocky... well, there are much better boxing films above. Raging Bull should have been Scorsese's first directing Oscar, and Goodfellas or Gangs of New York should have been his second, then his Oscar for The Departed could have gone to Alejandro Inarritu for Babel, which was filmed on three continents and in four languages. Friday Night Lights is probably the first great football film.

Friday, May 2, 2008

World's Best Horror Films

  • Aliens
  • American Werewolf in London
  • The Changeling
  • Jurassic Park
  • King Kong (bw)
  • The Lady in White
  • Nightmare on Elm St.
  • Poltergeist
  • The Ring
  • The Sixth Sense
Also: Thought not traditional horror, Requiem for a Dream from the brilliant David Aronofsky (only his 2nd film, Pi was the other) is the scariest film of the decade, and fans of hiding in the closet or even some gore won't be disappointed (warning though: NOT for the squeamish or under-18, and I'm not kidding) Five of these are monster movies, five are ghost stories. Some of these can easily double as Fantasy-Science Fiction films, like Aliens and Poltergeist, so they are on both lists. King Kong makes it as the original monster movie, and still the best. The Changeling is a classic-style horror story with George C. Scott. The Exorcist could be here if it wasn't so laughable and boring; same with Jaws (one thrill every 15 minutes on cue, sending all the kids at my theater screaming up the aisles!).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oscars 2008: No Country for Old Men

... but a good country for Coens... see my previous post for my predictions, I only hit the big ones and the Bourne ones. No Country for Old Men won the big prize for Best Picture, and the Coens won for that as co-producers, they won as directors, and for the screenplay - and Javier Bardem won supporting actor so it got four awards overall. Bourne Ultimatum actually won three: sound editing, sound mixing, film editing - that's about all it was up for! Daniel-Day Lewis won actor as expected for There Will Be Blood, which also won for cinematography by Robert Elswit. Big surprise was Marion Cotillard for Best Actress - she was speechless and basically just cried; La Vie En Rose also won for makeup for making her look like Edith Piaf (the transformation was almost surreal). I think Julie Christie was the easy favorite, and was terrific in Away from Her. Tilda Swinton was a surprise for supporting actress (I thought Ruby Dee or Cate Blanchett) - it was the only award Michael Clayton got. More solo awards: Atonement won for music, Juno for orig. screenplay, Sweeny Todd got art direction, Ratatouille won Animated Feature, and Golden Compass won Special Effects - figured they'd get a bone tossed to each - now they can all be on TBS' "Academy Award Movies" show. Documentary was Taxi to the Dark Side, which looked like a harrowing look inside Iraq. Best Song was interesting - a couple of musicians in Ireland made a movie in 17 days, put their "Falling Slowly" song in it and won the Best Song Oscar! Composers were were Glen Hansford and Marketa Irglova, said they made their film for one-hundred thousand. (Dollars? Euros? Pounds?) Still a lot of spare change in the guitar case. Best Foreign Language Film was the first win ever for Austria, a film about Nazis called The Counterfeiters - the director said Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger came here from Austria to escape the Nazis, so it was fitting that their first Oscar would be a film about Nazis. Daniel-Day Lewis got his Oscar from Helen Mirren and he knelt before her and she pretended to knight him with the Oscar... that British humor!