Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Top Ten Films Of 2014

Better late than never? Disclaimer: I have not seen Selma, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Dear White People, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Locke, Listen Up Philip, The Immigrant, The Babadook, and a handful of others. Go easy on me. 

#10. Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon Ho

Snowpiercer is a mix of both the expected and unexpected. On one hand, certain story beats are telegraphed from the very start, but on the other, there are constant moments of surprise that blindside and give you a sense that anything can happen - it's a testament to the movie that such a linear and literally straightforward plot ends up being so thrilling. The fantastic set design of the various train cars helps keep things fresh and interesting, as does the peppering of unique set pieces (there are some bits in here that are unlike anything you've ever seen). And while the film's overall metaphor may be surface level and very on-the-nose, that's not to say it doesn't work - I mean, could you not watch Tilda Swinton's "shoe" monologue all day?

#9. Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch

I wouldn't expect a film containing vampires, hipster lifestyle porn, and lectures that border on condescending to be anything remotely worth seeing, but damned if Jim Jarmusch doesn't pull it off. Only Lovers Left Alive entrances right from its swirling vortex of an opening shot (set to the crashing, scuzzy sounds of SQÜRL - Jarmusch's own band), pulling you into the movie's tremendous and tactile atmosphere that makes spending time with these characters a genuine pleasure (their infinite cool doesn't hurt either). A minimalist/hangout film in true Jarmusch fashion, he wisely eschews the campier aspects of his vampiric protagonists in favor of using their immortality as a jumping-off point to wax poetic on love, optimism/pessimism, and most of all, art. While the pretentious tone of all the scolding and finger-wagging threaten to sink the whole movie, it's hard for me to argue with its ultimate sentiment: if we humans can't achieve immortality through art, the next best way to spend our brief time here is to at least appreciate the hell out of it (preferably alongside someone who shares your exquisite, exquisite tastes).

#8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Not only did Captain America: The Winter Soldier have an engaging story and exceptional action/set pieces (Chris Evans is two for two in that department this year), but it also managed the impossible: making Captain America (widely and correctly regarded as The Avengers' lamest member) cool and actually getting me excited for his next adventure. It's due in no small part to Evans' likability, as well as his chemistry with Scarlett Johansson - the film allows its characters to *gasp* be funny and crack jokes (something Man of Steel completely missed the boat on) without the humor feeling disingenuous or shoehorned in. It sounds like damning with faint praise to say it's my third favorite movie from Marvel Studios, but considering it's just barely edged out by the steep competition of The Avengers and Iron Man, I don't mean it as such - Winter Soldier is everything a fun, popcorn summer blockbuster should be.

#7. Nightcrawler, directed by Dan Gilroy

A scathing/cynical indictment of the American Dream, Nightcrawler dares to suggest that jettisoning your humanity and any general sense of decency yields the best chance at success in this country. A beautifully eerie portrait of Los Angeles (palm trees have never looked so sinister) and the seedy characters that crawl out of the woodwork once the sun goes down gives the film a very distinct sense of place, and yes, everything you heard about Jake Gyllenhaal's lizard-like performance is true - his Lou Bloom will go down in history as one of cinema's most vile scumbags.

#6. Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher

David Fincher seems to have a flair for procedurals (this is just as much of one on marriage and the media as it is crime), so it comes as no surprise that Gone Girl is easily one of the most engrossing films I've seen in years. An edge-of-your-seat thriller of the finest quality, Fincher's usual sheen/consummate professionalism (there isn't a single shot out of place) and Gillian Flynn's excellent script kept me fully engaged (and guessing) throughout - rarely do 2.5 hours fly by so fast. I'd like to go into more detail here, but doing so would compromise the best way to go into it: knowing as little as possible. Strap yourself in and prepare to be gobsmacked.

#5. The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson

"I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it - but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace."

It hits you towards the end of Wes Anderson's latest (which couldn't be more aggressively Wes Anderson) that The Grand Budapest Hotel is serving as an unapologetic mission statement for his unique brand of filmmaking and often-criticized refusal to stray from what he knows/does best. It succeeds in that it ultimately proves: why the hell should he? A celebration of everything Wes Anderson (nearly everyone from his movie family is here, from Jason Schwartzman to Willem Dafoe), The Grand Budapest Hotel's relentless humor almost makes you forget about the strand of melancholy running just beneath the surface. A masterfully executed balancing act, one of which Gustave himself would most certainly approve.

#4. Birdman, directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu

Birdman (and its justifiably ballyhooed camerawork/cinematography, specifically) is one of the best examples of "form following function" in a movie that I can recall. Its appearance of having nearly the whole film unfold over the course of a single/uninterrupted take is a beautiful marriage to the onscreen action, giving the illusion that the cast and filmmakers actually got together and decided to put on a Broadway show for us moviegoers - just as Riggan and company do (Birdman itself obviously serving as Alejandro Inarritu and Michael Keaton's own What We Talk About When We Talk About Love). There's also the additional layer of meta from Keaton's former glory days as a superhero to drive this parallel home, but that blatant "life imitating art/art imitating life" angle is only so compelling - what's more remarkable is that Birdman is able to accurately capture/translate the sensation (and more importantly, danger) of live theater, giving the impression that the whole project is a cinematic house of cards. While exhilarating to watch, this also challenges viewers' expectations of film grammar and how they generally engage with movies - our eyes are conditioned to expect that cut, and when we don't get it, it's slightly (and purposely) uncomfortable. I love that the film pokes audiences in that way, and it results in making Birdman stand out as something wholly original. In the end, it's an experimental scattershot of a movie that asks considerably more questions than it answers, but it's so extraordinarily accomplished (not to mention acted, my god) that it's one I enthusiastically look forward to unpacking over repeat viewings.

#3. The Raid 2, directed by Gareth Evans

It's strange for a film to leave you simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated, but that's exactly the feeling you get once The Raid 2's credits roll. Despite trading in the small-scale efficiency of its predecessor for the considerably larger scope of a proper crime saga, this bar-raising (if not outright shattering) sequel still manages to keep the far-more-varied action coming at a steady clip - from the prison riot to the car chase to the kitchen fight, each brawl showcases Gareth Evans' ambition through their different settings/personalities/color palettes, etc. And while the movie's slightly more bloated as a result of the beefier story and myriad of characters, I have to applaud his decision to not lazily rehash the original by simply throwing poor Iko Uwais in a different building (and it's hard to complain when any one of the film's dozen or so fights would be the climax of your average, run-of-the-mill action movie). Evans is the master of getting a reaction out of his audience, and as someone who happily saw The Raid 2 four times in theaters, I can confirm the difficulty of physically/vocally restraining yourself while watching - it's that kind of visceral response that more than earns The Raid 2's place in the "best action films of all time" conversation.

#2. Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater

It's rare for even outstanding movies to evolve past mere entertainment and offer audiences more of an experience (as corny as that sounds), but Boyhood is one of those precious few that engaged me on several levels: I was at once following the narrative, attempting to work out the behind-the-scenes mechanics of the awe-inspiring 12 year timeline, and going on a personal trip down memory lane (nearly impossible to avoid with a project like this). A plethora of memories (long locked away, both good and bad) bubbled to the surface while watching and when a film has the ability to stir your emotions so immediately, it becomes clear just how unique and special it is. Richard Linklater's self-professed fixations on time and memory are perfectly manifested in Boyhood, and the material is wonderfully suited for his storytelling sensibilities (somewhat shapeless, in that he excels at evoking a particular mood/atmosphere, rather than bombard you with plot). After all, what you remember and don't remember about those formative years doesn't necessarily fit into a clean, three act structure - your memories pick you, not the other way around. It's a notion the film encapsulates beautifully, shining a light on the quiet/seemingly insignificant moments in between the "milestones" and throwing into question what in life "is banal and what's poetry" (to quote Linklater himself). Watching Mason and his family quietly age (there's fortunately little to no fanfare when the years pass) as the story unfolds in real time gives whole scenes, conversations, and beats an added weight that simply wouldn't be there had it been shot traditionally (our present day selves are privy to information that both the characters and actors couldn't have known at the time, elevating the movie to so much more than an aughts-centric nostalgia piece). Somehow just knowing that literally 12 years have passed over the course of 165 minutes makes you feel that much closer to the characters by the film's end and also serves as a painful reminder of just how fast time moves (reinforcing the old adage of "life passing people by while they're making grand plans for it" - a lesson learned too late for the mother, but perhaps not Mason). Boyhood hasn't left my head since I first saw it last August and I don't expect it to anytime soon - such a thing is rare, indeed.

#1. Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle

Does the end justify the means? Is there more than one path to greatness? What does it mean to be "great", anyway? Can it only be attained through suffering of the highest degree? Do being a genius and being an asshole go hand in hand? We've heard these sort of questions before, but seldom are they all seamlessly worked into a film as tightly wound, confidently directed, and relentlessly entertaining as Whiplash. The aforementioned musings are put into the context of jazz at a prestigious music conservatory, but whether you're into that specifically or not (I most definitely am, for the record) isn't the point - this is a scorching portrait of blind, youthful ambition that anyone who's had drive/aspirations can connect with, regardless of the field (military, sports, cooking, painting, etc). And although Fletcher is clearly the psychotic "bad guy" and we're generally meant to side with Andrew, the script intelligently takes a seemingly base-level scenario that could be very black/white and instead fleshes out the characters' grays (could Fletcher have a point, is it a "happy" ending if Andrew achieves his goals, etc). Believability is certainly stretched as the drama gets more and more heightened, but we're so invested at that point that it doesn't matter - time and time again I thought I figured out where Whiplash was heading only to have it yank me in a far superior direction I hadn't even anticipated. Great music, cinematography, and editing that made my palms sweat cap it all off, and the ending was the closest I've come to ripping out of my seat in applause. I remember thinking to myself as I stumbled out of the theater, "How could this not be my favorite movie of the year?"

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Do The Wright Thing

Los Angeles belonged to writer/director Edgar Wright for a few weeks this past month - in celebration of the release of his new film, The World's End (which is amazing, by the way - go see it), the city played host to a bevy of special events revolving around his extraordinary career. I was fortunate enough to be present at a good portion of the festivities, which included over a half dozen double-features at the historic New Beverly Cinema (hand-picked by Wright himself, intended to serve as a primer for his new movie), the opening of an art gallery centered around his filmography, and a triple-bill of his entire Cornetto Trilogy at the famous ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Since a few people have asked about it, I thought I'd post some snapshots that hopefully do the experience justice (and boy, was it an experience):

$8 for two movies. In 35mm. Plus, dirt cheap popcorn/snacks. The New Beverly is quickly becoming my home away from home.

Wright brought the occasional special guest to the screenings, including The Terminator editor Mark Goldblatt and Looper writer/director Rian Johnson (back of head).

The incredible New Beverly Cinema crowd, as seen through Rian Johnson's camera. Say, that geek in the white Sex Bob-Omb shirt looks a lil familiar...

Watching the flicks mere feet from my idols was wonderfully surreal - for a few hours those evenings, we were all united as a simple audience of movie fans.

Grand opening!

Line for the gallery snaked around the block. Lots of costumes, felt like Comic-Con or something.

Hadn't planned on buying anything at the show...until I saw this.

And this.

...AND THIS...

Nick Frost signing autographs for the hordes of fans. Wright, Simon Pegg, and Johnny Simmons (Young Neil) were also in attendance. And Doug Benson, randomly enough.

"Accidents happen all the time, what makes you think it was..."


Could post endless pics of the artwork, but this brief video (taken by the gallery) sums it up pretty well. Also, witness my geek-out over having Wright sign my print at 1:55.

The ArcLight in Hollywood housed several costumes/props from The World's End, as well as the other Cornetto films.

Of all the Cornetto Trilogy screenings taking place that night (the eve of its US release), only the one at Hollywood's Cinerama Dome housed the trio of Wright/Pegg/Frost. Held a great Q&A, unexpectedly hosted by Bill Hader. Quentin Tarantino (!) even showed up at one point (he's one of those heads in the front row) - not to speak or anything, just as a fan like the rest of us.

Genius writer/director, one of the most talented filmmakers working today. Also pictured: Edgar Wright.

(Har har har...)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Los Angeles Film Festival 2013: A Rundown

Haven't updated the blog in over a year, so I thought my recent adventures at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival would make for a good reason. For those who don't know, I relocated from Indianapolis to LA earlier this spring, but I won't bore you with a dissertation on the "why", "how", and journey of all that (maybe some photos in a future post will suffice, we'll see) - this entry is about movies and LAFF, so I'll cut right to the chase:

Thanks to an incredibly generous welcome present from my older brother James, I was able to enjoy roughly ten days of screenings and other special events at this year's downtown festivities. A few people have inquired as to the sort of films I would be watching and the answer is, well, a little bit of everything - dramas, comedies, documentaries, blockbusters, old classics, horror, and so on (all heavily peppered with cast/crew Q&A and industry faces galore). For those aforementioned interested parties, I'll do my best to break down the movies I attended and highlight the fun stuff (giving my two cents here and there along the way)...


1. Man of Steel (advanced screening), directed by Zack Snyder

Definitely worth checking out on the big screen for the sheer spectacle alone, but its cracks start to show the more I think about it (some of them serious, very similar to my experience last summer with The Dark Knight Rises). Perhaps my initial judgement was clouded by the bells and whistles of the actual screening - seeing it ahead of time, kicking off the film festival, absurdly long line of fans (most decked out in all sorts of Superman gear) snaking around the block, the film being projected in a cathedral-sized theater with pitch perfect image/sound, and so on. I have the feeling it won't hold up as well during subsequent viewings, but as for that first one, I left with a big smile on my face.

Side note: On the street afterwards, I ran into Napoleon Dynamite. Sadly not with my car.

2. Ain't Them Bodies Saints, directed by David Lowery

More admirable than involving (at least to me), this one was all right. Lowery appeared in person (along with actors Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck), describing the movie as a "cinematic folk song" - it succeeds in that respect, mostly due to the score and cinematography.

Cast and crew post-screening, attempting to explain the title.

3. Drug War, directed by Johnnie To

A largely procedural crime drama with not as much action as the above trailer implies. Not on the level of Sparrow or Exiled, but having said that, Johnnie To sure knows his way around a good shootout - the final one just about knocked my socks off.

4. Coffee Talks (Directors): Shane Black

This was no screening - I headed into the "Director Coffee Talk" knowing there would be some sort of guest giving some sort of a lecture. Turns out the guest was Mr. Shane Black (director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, he's also widely considered the founder of the "buddy cop" genre, having penned Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and more) and the lecture was moderated by renouned film critic Elvis Mitchell. At first, I couldn't decide whether Black's blunt and no-nonsense way of speaking made for a more interesting conversation or just made him an asshole. He ultimately won me over though, providing some pretty insightful musings on writing/the cinema-going experience overall (see video above) and never shying away from giving his opinion - for example, he hates the "home invasion" sub-genre we've seen a lot of lately and is highly critical action films' over-reliance on CGI (which came off as more than a little hypocritical, considering the special effects extravaganza that was Iron Man 3, which he claims utilized them more effectively). A highlight of the lecture came right at the beginning, when the guy introducing Black and Mitchell accidentally called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang "overrated" (he clearly meant the opposite) and failed to realize his mistake, causing a ripple of murmurs through the audience. A low point came in the hallway afterwards, when I awkwardly spoke with Mitchell while realizing I probably should've thought of something interesting to say before deciding to strike up a conversation. By the time I came up with some good talking points for Black (who had kindly hung around to chat with the fans, take pictures, and sign autographs), he was already on the elevator. Oh well, lesson learned!

5. In a World..., directed by Lake Bell

Breezy indie comedy that could've used a touch less quirk and a bit more subtlety (its "You Go Girl" feminist message is practically screamed in your face), but was otherwise solid. Writer/director/lead actress Lake Bell oozes charisma and managed to charm the living pants out of every audience member in the 30 seconds she took introducing the film (was rushed, had to catch a flight) - keep an eye on that one.

6. The New Black, directed by Yoruba Richen

Incredibly moving and emotional documentary with spot-on timing, considering the recent rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8. Here's hoping it gets a wider release.

7. Fruitvale Station, directed by Ryan Coogler

Maybe the best film I saw at the whole festival and arguably the most powerful (there wasn't a dry eye in the audience, I assure you), this was a ridiculously impressive directorial debut with a star-making performance from Michael B. Jordan (I have a feeling that rumored Human Torch role is as good as his). Although beaming with the understandable excitement of being there, 27 year old (!) Coogler held it together for the star-studded, red carpet affair (for which I was frightfully underdressed - shorts were a bad choice) - assuredly better than I would have, considering the faces present: Forest Whitaker, Octavia Spencer, Edward James Olmos, and Sidney Poitier, to name a few.

Forest Whitaker and Sidney Poitier embracing (sorry for the blurriness).

Michael B. and Sidney Poitier - his daughter Sydney (of "Grindhouse" fame) watches from the left.

Meeting for the first time?

Guy's got a bright future ahead of him.

8. Two Men in Manhattan (1959), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

The only film I saw that wasn't current, this was just so-so. Had its moments, looked great (despite the Paris studio interiors posing as NYC), smooth soundtrack, but nothing to write home about at the end of the day (although I suppose this post is technically "writing home about it" - hmmm).

9. Goodbye World, directed by Denis Hennelly

Interesting, indie spin on the "end of the world" sub-genre that uses the actual apocalypse as more of a backdrop in favor of character interactions/relationships. Enjoyable enough, but seemed to just miss the mark - occasional hiccups in the acting didn't help either (particularly when Entourage is required to cry). When asked about the film's budget during the cast/crew Q&A, Hennelly quipped that it was "less than Aquaman but more than Queens Boulevard."

10. Forev, directed by Molly Green and James Leffler

The audience ate this one right up, consistent laughter throughout. It's essentially a road movie, strengthened by the chemistry of the cast (who were basically all friends that just wanted to shoot a movie together). They all chuckled when the "casting process" was brought up during the Q&A.

11. Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Wow - the verdict's still out on this one, not quite sure what to think. Drive 2 it's not (just know that going in), the film feels like a nightmare - fragmented and surreal. Absolutely gorgeous to look at, saw this in the same mammoth theater as the Fruitvale Station and Man of Steel screenings, which Woody Allen reportedly called the "best projection he's ever seen" when To Rome with Love premiered there last year. Winding Refn himself provided some killer Q&A at the end before disappearing into his after-party, which I attempted to sneak into. It did not work.

12. Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records, directed by Jeff Broadway

I was jazzed about this one from the very start and it didn't disappoint. Hip hop acts (not that that's the only genre on display here) don't seem to be as prominent in the world of documentaries (save for the occasional project, such as Michael Rapaport's Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest), which is a shame, as the story of Peanut Butter Wolf/Charizma/Stones Throw Records is touching, inspirational, and worthy of being told - kudos to Broadway for realizing this and making it all happen. When the screening and director Q&A ended, I discovered both Peanut Butter Wolf himself and Mayer Hawthorne were in the audience (the former approving of my Stones Throw shirt when exiting, which probably shouldn't have pleased me as much as it did).

Peanut Butter Wolf (hat), founder of Stones Throw Records.

Neo soul crooner Mayer Hawthorne (center), currently one of my favorite working artists.

Wolf launched Hawthorne's career when signing him to Stones Throw Records around 2009.

13. Lesson of the Evil, directed by Takashi Miike

Just when I was certain Only God Forgives was a shoo-in for the most disturbing film at the festival, I went and saw this (leave it to Takashi Miike). Several people understandably walked out and part of me really wanted to - its relentless (almost to the point of camp) violence in the wake of tragedies such as Aurora and Sandy Hook came off as repugnant and thoroughly unnecessary. I'm not saying filmmakers shouldn't be allowed to make these sort of movies - I probably just won't be in line next time to see them.


That's it for my screenings, I'll leave you with a few additional pictures to wrap things up - hopefully I'll keep this blog running on the quasi-regular and post again soon. Otherwise, guess I'll see you in another year!

Theater housing all the screening rooms was right smack in the middle of downtown.

Loved exiting the cinema to this every night.

"Filmmakers Lounge" I had access to where you could mix, mingle, hang out, and eat snacks in between and after screenings.

Outisde area of the lounge, which was located on the roof of a parking garage. Would've been nicer without all the smokers.

Open bar!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Glove, Actually 2: Glove Harder

Long time, no post! It certainly has been a while since my last entry (and that wasn't even film-related, damn), so to make up for this hiatus, I have with me the latest in my recent series of movie-centric montages. Some of you may remember Glove, Actually - An Ode to Cinema's Greatest Slaps from about a year or so ago - it was my initial foray into the world of supercuts and served as a much-needed exercise exclusively in post-production. Although the edit was astonishingly well-received (even catching the attention of some personal idols, something I'm still pinching myself over), much of the feedback consisted of several omissions brought up by viewers, saddened by the absence of their own choice, top-tier slap. As a matter of fact, enough were brought to my attention that, as "slapped out" as I was, a substantial follow-up featuring all those fan favorites (as well as my own personal oversights, many of which I stumbled upon afterward) seemed more than plausible. Your voices were heard, so I set off to work and the result is the official sequel I proudly present to you now - Glove, Actually 2: Glove Harder - More of Cinema's Greatest Slaps. Check it out, enjoy, let me know what you think!

- Jeff S.

P.S. A complete (well, mostly) list of the films used appears below the embed for you curious folk. Any hardcore cinephiles out there who can fill in those blanks I couldn't quite place? If so, definitely let me know - there just might be a prize in it for ya...

0:00 - 2:00

1. Analyze This (1999)
2. Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)
3. The Weather Man (2005)
4. True Lies (1994)
5. Scarface (1983)
6. Mobile Suit Gundam I (1981)
7. Purple Rain (1984)
8. Weird Science (1985)
9. The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
10. Carrie (1976)
11. Hard Boiled (1992)
12. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
13. The Sword in the Stone (1963)
14. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
15. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
16. Oscar (1991)
17. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
18. All About Eve (1950)
19. Paul (2011)
20. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
21. Black Dynamite (2009)
22. From Russia with Love (1963)
23. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
24. Breathless (1960)
25. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
26. The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
27. Fight Club (1999)
28. Live and Let Die (1973)
29. Final Destination 3 (2006)
30. The Piano (1993)
31. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
32. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
33. The Gambler (1974)
34. Back to the Future Part III (1990)
35. Legally Blonde (2001)
36. The Slammin' Salmon (2009)
37. Drive (2011)
38. Carrie (1976)
39. Elite Squad (2007)
40. Blow (2001)
41. 17 Again (2009)
42. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
43. Gone with the Wind (1939)
44. In the Bedroom (2001)
45. A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
46. Paul (2011)
47. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
48. Chicken Run (2000)
49. The Getaway (1972)
50. Nothing to Lose (1997)
51. Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
52. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
53. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
54. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007)
55. Side Street (1950)
56. Hard Boiled (1992)
57. The Killers (1964)
58. The Godfather (1972)

2:00 - 4:00

59. Blade II (2002)
60. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
61. My Name is Nobody (1973)
62. Night at the Museum (2006)
63. Blade II (2002)
64. Night at the Museum (2006)
65. Roxie Hart (1942)
66. Just Friends (2005)
67. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
68. Bee Movie (2007)
69. ?????????? (????)
70. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
71. Clue (1985)
72. The Searchers (1956)
73. Carrie (1976)
74. Airport (1970)
75. 36 Hours (1965)
76. Elite Squad (2007)
77. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
78. The Great Dictator (1940)
79. Flashdance (1983)
80. Beerfest (2006)
81. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
82. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
83. The River Wild (1994)
84. Jackass 3D (2010)
85. Jackie Brown (1997)
86. The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
87. Predator (1987)
88. King Arthur (2004)
89. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
90. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
91. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
92. My Name is Nobody (1973)
93. The Master of Disguise (2002)
94. Pineapple Express (2008)
95. Marathon Man (1976)
96. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
97. Just Friends (2005)
98. Purple Rain (1984)

4:00 - 6:00

99. ?????????? (????)
100. Vivacious Lady (1938)
101. Scarface (1983)
102. The Sniper (1952)
103. Claudine (1974)
104. Lady in a Cage (1964)
105. Marathon Man (1976)
106. The Color Purple (1985)
107. The January Man (1989)
108. The Nutty Professor (1996)
109. Opening Night (1977)
110. The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
111. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
112. Mississippi Burning (1988)
113. My Name is Nobody (1973)
114. The Master of Disguise (2002)
115. Point Blank (1967)
116. Miller's Crossing (1990)
117. Patton (1970)
118. Slackers (2002)
119. That Touch of Mink (1962)
120. Innerspace (1987)
121. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
122. The Village (2004)
123. Swamp Water (1941)
124. ?????????? (????)
125. ?????????? (????)
126. The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
127. Carrie (1976)
128. Possessed (1947)
129. Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
130. I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
131. The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
132. High Sierra (1941)
133. The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)
134. The Da Vinci Code (2006)
135. ?????????? (????)
136. Roustabout (1964)
137. ?????????? (????)
138. What's Love Got to Do with It (1993)
139. O Lucky Man! (1973)

6:00 - END

140. The Sniper (1952)
141. The Color Purple (1985)
142. Ray (2004)
143. Aliens (1986)
144. Paul (2011)
145. There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)
146. Starsky & Hutch (2004)
147. The Five Heartbeats (1991)
148. ?????????? (????)
149. Drive (2011)
150. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
151. Carlito's Way (1993)
152. What's Love Got to Do with It (1993)
153. Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)
154. Predator (1987)
155. Blue Valentine (2010)
156. Tombstone (1993)
157. My Name is Nobody (1973)
158. Tombstone (1993)
159. Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlottle (1964)
160. Videodrome (1983)
161. From Russia with Love (1963)
162. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
163. The Naked City (1948)
164. The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
165. Casino (1995)
166. The Getaway (1972)
167. The Getaway (1994)
168. Oliver! (1968)
169. True Lies (1994)
170. Othello (1995)
171. The Killing (1956)
172. How High (2001)
173. The Love God? (1969)
174. Hard Boiled (1992)
175. ?????????? (????)
176. Gone with the Wind (1939)
177. The Getaway (1972)
178. Capone (1975)
179. ?????????? (????)
180. Carrie (1976)
181. The Dark Corner (1946)
182. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
183. Onionhead (1958)
184. Hands of a Stranger (1962)
185. Oscar (1991)
186. Dakota Lil (1950)
187. The Racket (1951)
188. Gone with the Wind (1939)
189. Look Back in Anger (1959)
190. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
191. The Killer Inside Me (2010)
192. Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
193. Orphan (2009)
194. Pineapple Express (2008)
195. 17 Again (2009)
196. Beerfest (2006)
197. The Slammin' Salmon (2009)
198. The Joy Luck Club (1993)
199. Human Desire (1954)
200. 30: Minutes or Less (2011)
201. Boogie Nights (1997)
202. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
203. Faces (1968)
204. The Last Boy Scout (1991)
205. I Saw the Devil (2010)
206. Key Largo (1948)
207. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
208. The Wild One (1953)
209. ?????????? (????)
210. ?????????? (????)
211. The Keeper (2009)
212. A Woman's Face (1941)
213. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)
214. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
215. It's a Great Feeling (1949)
216. Stardust Memories (1980)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Top Five: Christmas songs

I know a list of Christmas music doesn't have a whole lot to do with film, but it's what's on the brain (and everywhere else) this time of year, so what the hell - time for a seasonal post! As torturous as some holiday music can be (I'd say the bad probably outweighs the good, sadly), don't put that shotgun to your temple just yet - there is enough of the latter to not only get you through December, but make you appreciate the month a little more, as well. After all, listening to the following five tracks is strictly prohibited any other time of year. Wouldn't wanna diminish their magic, now would we?


#1. Christmas Time Is Here (instrumental) by Vince Guaraldi

You have no idea how difficult it is for me to keep this whole list from being comprised entirely of A Charlie Brown Christmas songs (the best Christmas album ever recorded, by a landslide), but for the sake of an interesting blog post, I had to mix it up and pick a favorite. Many credit Vince Guaraldi for bridging the gap between jazz and pop music (sparked by his 1962 B-side, Cast Your Fate to the Wind), and with this track it's easy to see, or hear, why. Christmas Time Is Here is a well-deserved anthem during the holiday season, pulling off the difficult task of sounding happy yet incredibly melancholic at the same time (perfectly capturing Charlie Brown's depression amidst all the holiday cheer in the aforementioned Peanuts special). Almost never failing to get me a little misty-eyed, it's one of those tracks that'll catch you off guard - you have to prepare yourself for when it comes on, lest you be caught weeping in a crowded mall when shopping for Christmas presents. Some holiday tunes are created with strictly children in mind, while others are clearly meant for the older crowd - I think what makes Christmas Time so universal is its continued ability to generate interest in the jazz genre amongst youngsters while striking repressed emotional nerves amongst adults. That's the key to its longevity, and what has cemented the Maestro of Menlo Park's presence around the holiday season since 1965. That and that it's simply six minutes of coolout jazz perfection. And to think network executives were strongly opposed to Guaraldi's score (which was unheard of for a children's program), as well as almost everything else that makes the special classic, prior to its airing. Fortunately, creators Charles Schulz, Bill Melendez, and Lee Mendelson persevered, and Guaraldi was able to achieve his dream of "writing standards, not just hits."

#2. Waltz of the Flowers by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Again, as with A Charlie Brown Christmas, it's very hard for me to just pick one piece from The Nutcracker. Going to see it with my family around the holidays was sort of an annual tradition growing up, so naturally, Tchaikovsky's music is, has been, and forever will be associated with this time of year. For me, Waltz of the Flowers stands out as a major, if not the, primary "theme" that's somewhat representative of the whole Suite - it's powerful and nicely structured, softly easing listeners into the melodies as it gradually crescendos, before starting all over again. It's a wonderful ride Tchaikovsky takes you on, and Christmas music doesn't get much better. Plus, now I have an additional positive association with Waltz ever since its brilliantly unexpected appearance in Cowboy Bebop.

#3. Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes

In 1963, New York City girl group The Ronettes took Sleigh Ride (already one of the better Christmas standards) and knocked it out of the park with this version that's guaranteed to make toes tap. One of the best, family-friendly holiday songs out there, it's ironic that it ultimately came from such a twisted murderer.

#4. Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney

Nobody does cheesy like Sir Paul McCartney. Practically dripping with his trademark whimsy, this 1979 gem packs some surprising thump with a prophetic synthesizer riff that delivers a preview of sounds to come in the following decade. Sure, the song's catchy, but it's McCartney's sincerity in the face of such cornball antics that ultimately make it so irresistibly charming. With tunes such as this, he's really gunning for that title of sweetest person on the planet.

#5. Last Christmas by Wham!

Never in a million years would I have thought anything remotely related to Wham! would ever find its way to this blog, but here we are. I've always had a soft spot for this relative downer of a holiday standard, and the 1984 original by the British pop duo is my favorite version. The most embarrassing inclusion on this list, to be sure (hey, I did put it at number five), it was also featured on Huffington Post's recent list of 15 Christmas Songs Too Annoying For Words. To each their own, I guess!


Agree? Disagree? Have your own unsung Christmas jams worth mentioning? Let me know in the comments section, but before signing off, here's a slew of other holiday tunes I stand by that just missed the cut and are sure to keep you cool this Yule:

I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm by Billie Holiday (Verve Remixed)

Waltz For Zizi by Yoko Kanno (totally not a Christmas song, but it makes ya wanna curl up by the fireplace, don't it?)

Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto by James Brown

Pocketful Of Miracles by Frank Sinatra (again, not really a Christmas song, but it sure sounds like/might as well be one)

Boss Hog Egg Nog by J-Zone aka Chief Chinchilla (NSFW)

Christmas Coming by Alton Ellis

Merry Merry Christmas by The Flames

Christmas Is by Run DMC (far superior to Christmas In Hollis, trust me)

Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys

African Sleigh Ride by Vince Guaraldi (not on A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack)

The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole (classic for a reason)

Happy Holidays!