Showing posts with label Films. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Films. Show all posts

Catching A Classic At the Cabot

I enjoy films and have had the opportunity to use it in several courses and even teach an adapting fiction into film class over the years.  I've also been a fan of movies and enjoy the experience deeply.  However, I most recently had one of the most magical experiences of watching a film.  

I certainly enjoy watching new films up on the big screen as opposed to at home but I don't got too often because the price is often not worth it and very few movies warrant it.  However, I find myself more and more wanting to watch older films on the big screen.  I get particularly excited when I discover that a local theater is playing a classic movie on their big screen because the opportunity to sit in a darkened theater and experience a film as it was originally conceived to be presented puts me in touch with a past that I will never really know.  

This is particularly true for older black and white film, before an age of television when the films could only be shown on the big screen.  There are interesting differences in the black and white films of the early 20th century as opposed to the modern film and it's always a lot of fun to watch and connect with that history of film.

Film poster for 1925 film, Varieté
Thus, when The Cabot, a local historical theater in Beverly, Massachusetts offered up the 1925 film, Varieté, I was excited to watch a silent black and white film on the big screen.  I knew nothing about the film.  I only knew I had a free Friday night and the show would be a good activity.  

However, this was no mere showing of the film.  The soundtrack for the film was to be provided by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO).  Yes, there is a silent film orchestra and they are absolutely fabulous!  The orchestra stems from a film-score course at Berklee wherein students find a silent film and over the course of the semester create a film score for it.  They do not listen to the original score but rather work hard to come up with a score that embodies what they see happen throughout the film and they did an amazing job, coming up with 90 minutes of music and sounds that perfectly captured the film's mood, actions, and themes.  

The film itself is a fascinating film in terms of its cinematography and aesthetics.  It follows the antics of an acrobat who leaves his wife for a newly acquired (literally) love, only to lose her to another acrobat and thus feels compelled to murder the other acrobat.  The plot is problematic to say the least as the violence towards and possession of women is problematic (e.g. he has no issue leaving his wife and child for a woman he essentially owns but has fault with her leaving him; she is raped by the second acrobat but somehow this encourages her to fall for him) feels beyond antiquated but outright barbaric.  Looking beyond that (as hard as it may be), the cinematography is quite impressive for a 90-year-old film.  The use of camera angle, the capturing of the acrobatics, and some of the inventive shots and pans were fascinating.  Equally, this film as much as Nosferatu and many other classic silent films captures the power of the silent film in the sense of how much it could convey with only a handful of title cards.

But the BSFO made the movie absolutely magical.  Its power was in its almost entire absence.  As I sat in my seat in the mezzanine seat (more on that later) and could not see them, it was often hard to remember that I was actually listening to live music in an old theater.  Their music for all ninety minutes of the film blended seamlessly with the film and added such a strong ambiance that throughout they felt as part of the natural landscape (soundscape?) of the film.  The only times I was drawn to their existence was when the audience would break out into applause at their work (not entirely sure when this happened but it might have been at the switching of conductors or clear pauses in their performance).  
A picture of the Cabot theater from the upper mezzanine level.
A picture of the Cabot theater from the upper mezzanine level.

Besides the amazing music, something else made the cinematic experience so transcendent and magical.  I opted to buy tickets in the upper mezzanine at The Cabot.  I've been to many events here but never when the mezzanine has been opened.  I opted for the mezzanine because I thought it would be cool but also, the upper mezzanine (think: partial nosebleed) was also cheaper (not by much).  But these were the perfect seats.  I still saw the film perfectly but I also felt enveloped in the theater in such a way as I rarely experienced before.  I love the new theaters with their comfortable, spacious and reclining seats.  But sitting in the mezzanine section with few others lost in a beautifully restored and visually-well constructed film with amazing live music--it was something I won't soon forget and wholly had not experienced until this point. 

The next time The Cabot does this, I will most definitely be there.  I hope to see you there too!



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Top 101 Films Part 10 (of 10) (Finally!!!)

And we finally get to the end!  It only took a year or two.  Here's the running list of previous entries!

Stand by Me (1986)

The wild and coming-of-age adventures of four boys as they travel to discover a dead body is pure Americana.  It may seem a little morbid by today's standards and yet for many I grew up with this was a powerful and moving story--still is.  The childhood antics (debating who is better, Superman or Mighty Mouse) contrast with the flashbacks of a lost brother and disconnected parents and comes to a head when confronting the dead body and the older gang.  Filled with an impressive cast of people who have gone on to other fascinating projects and a great sound track, it's a great film to watch again and again.     
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Swing Kids (1993)

It's like a quasi-musical.  No really signing, but plenty of music and plenty of dancing.  This paired with Newsies and you have a early Christian Bale singing and dancing mini-marathon that is delightful.  Coupled with Newsies is and interesting dialogue because one offers a criticism of unbridled fascism and the other critiques unbridled capitalism (which is also present within Rent--ok, who's surprised by that pattern in my movie selections?).  But Swing Kids was the first film to introduce me to ideas about popular culture and it as a form of cultural resistance.  That is, the film fixates on how music was a focus point and means of resistance.  It's strange but I never entirely realized how much this film has in common in parts with Footloose--another film that I am fond of (though it did not make the list).  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Station Agent (2003)

DVD Cover - Station Agent
I implore you to watch this film.  If you watch Game of Thrones or just want to see an amazing performance by Peter Dinklage, this is an essential film.  He is amazing and when I first saw this film, I fell in love with Dinklage as an actor.  Though he speaks so very little, there is so much complexity in his body language and performance.  If you want to understand why he was chosen for Game of Thrones, it's worth looking at, but if you just want to see a powerful performance, you still need to see it.  The film focuses on three lost-souls.  The main character is a short person who inherits a station from his close and recently-departed friend.  There is also Patricia Clarkson who plays a mother who has lost her child, and Bobby Cannavale, a young guy operating a food truck whose father is sick.  The three make the oddest grouping possible, but it works so amazingly well.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


The Thing (1982)

DVD Cover - The Thing - Carpenter
I generally like John Carpenter's works, but I never really watched The Thing until I was an adult and teaching a horror course.  Then, it became one of my favorite horror films.  Since then, I have read and appreciated the novella it is based upon, John Campbell's Who Goes There.  So much of the drama and horror focuses on the idea of not knowing who is the alien or not.  A narrative clearly evocative of a communist regime, the film works in numerous ways to make views feel claustrophobic, distrustful of everyone, and anxious about what it might mean to not resolve the question of who goes there.  The film has some great features to it including point-of-view camera shots that prove frustrating to the viewer because you know there are things beyond your vision.  The sound track also proves to provide an oppressive and haunting heartbeat that lingers throughout the film--it almost makes one wonder if it is the film or their own heartbeat.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Trainspotting (1996)

DVD Cover - Trainspotting
Beyond the Scottish dialect and the mayhem that makes up the film, the film goes down in my own personal history for the first film that I watched that included a full frontal shot of a male.  I applaud Ewan McGregor (who does this again in another film years later) for this (and for Danny Boyle for including it).  I found this an impressive statement given how rare such shots are.  But the film itself is such a fascinating pastishe of the hardcore drug life and McGregor's character gives us the full tour from the highs to the lows.  In some of its more funky scenes, it reminds me a great deal of A Clockwork Orange--there is a hyperactivity about both films which seems present.  There is also moments that are genuinely strange and freaky--such as the baby on the ceiling scene (you'll have to see it to get it).  I believe there is going to be a sequel to this that will include most of the main actors and Danny Boyle as director as well.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Trollhunter (2010)

DVD Cover - Troll Hunter
If you are looking for another great Scandanavian horror film on this list (the first being the Swedish Let The Right One In), then Trollhunter is you rnext option.  This film follows a group of documentarians as they stumble upon real trolls and a whole network for trollhunters wardens who are meant to keep them frome ever being made known to the public.  Lots of great scenery is coupled with tense and terse moments throughout the film in the Norweigan woodlands as the characters continue to record their own demise.  It is largely invocative of The Blair Witch Project in its execution but still feels it has something unique to offer.  The trolls--which are largely kept in the dark--do make several direct appearances and the films makes them reasonably troll-like without feeling entirely ridiculous.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Unbreakable (2000)

Back in the day, when M. Night Shyamalan made some interesting movies--until we all realized that his gimmick was to keep everyone in suspense and confusion until the last ten minutes of the film when he unlocked it all.  Regardless of the fact that this is how he has done nearly every movie, I still have an appreciated of Unbreakable as a modern-day (and mayhaps post-modern) telling of a superhero story.  I also like that there is not entirely an origin story--dead parents, magic-bestowing elder, power-granting rays from a moonrock, etc--but rather the story focuses on the character's discovery of his powers, more so than why he must fight crime (we get this by proxy--protecting his family, but it's not so explicit).  The final reveal of the villain proves to be just the start of the journey and in some ways, one could argue takes away from the development because the villain appears to be just a villain for villain's sake--not necessarily as full formed as the hero.  Regardless, it proves one of the better narratives about a superhero coming into his own.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


United States of Leland (2003)

DVD Cover - United States of Leland
For all those Ryan Gosling fans, all I can say is that I saw him first--in this film and you really should too.  Like the above mentioned Station Agent, this was a film I saw early on that secured my respect and interest in all things Ryan Gosling.  His role in this film is fascinating and his acting is amazing.  He plays the titular, Leland who has killed his girlfriend's little brother without reason.  He is now in juvenile detention and everyone wants to know why he did it.  Other performances are strong in this film, but it's Gosling who commands every scene he is through his poise and body language.  The desire to get inside of his head drives everyone--even the viewer to keep eyes focused on a young man who is clearly intelligent and sensitive but has committed a most-heinous act. 
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Watchmen (2009)

DVD Cover - Watchmen
For some, I may have lost all disrespect, but as I've said before in this blog, I'm a fan of adaptation and I do not expect tit for tat.  I'm curious in the ways a narrative will evolve in another medium and I rather like what they did with Watchmen.  I think to fully appreciate it, it's probably useful to rely on all three elements of Watchmen--the film itself, The Tale of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood, as these films provide the full richness that is the original comic, Watchmen.  I found the adaptation with its use of music, updated technology, and chosen actors to be rather well chosen.  I think for many people, the film doesn't feel as powerful as the comic, but again, that often has to do with two things.  One is that they have already read the comic and using it as a comparision.  The other is that Watchmen is a powerful narrative, but we have to remember it was written in the 1980s and has been influential enough in our narratives that many of its core ideas are already mainstream ideas in television and film.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Whale Rider (2002)

This proves both a beautiful and heart-warming film.  Set in New Zealand and focused on a Maori tribe as it reconciles an aging chief and no apparent male heir.  The protagonist, Paikea Apiran (Pai), is the grand-daughter but the grandfather refuses to believe that  a woman could lead the tribe.  What follows is Pai's constant challenges to show she is worthy while her grandfather grows increasingly angry and distant.  The contrast between the adorable and stubborn Pai is met with an equally adorable and stubborn grandfather.  The film's power lay in the clear love between these characters and their refusual to accept each other in their ways.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Wizard of Oz (1939)

It feels quite right to end with this one.  The Wizard of Oz is still a favorite of mine in all its technicolor glory.  As fantasy films go, it still holds up decades later.  And to those who hate remakes, you should know that Wizard of Oz is indeed a remake.  But the film is just a fantastic trip to another world and of course, down memory lane since it's one of the earliest films (besides Star Wars) that I can remember watching regularly when growing up.  Despite the hokey outfits--today I imagine they would all be CGI characters--the film and its atmosphere works and easily transports the view to Oz and all its majesty.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


So that's all 101 films...finally!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Top 101 Films Part 8 (of 10)

So I'm finally honing in on the final three entries of this series.  It only took a year, right?  But hey, it's not like I haven't been doing lots of stuff or posting much!  
For those just joining in, here's the running list of previous entries!

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

DVD Cover - Pans Labyrinth
What a visually fascinating film!  To me, it fits into the fantasy dream films like Never-Ending Story, Labyrinth and MirrorMask.  Films that bleed the line between the real and the fantastic.  However, unlike Labyrinth and Never-Ending Story (and MirrorMask to a lesser degree), the backdrop of this film is powerful and draws strong parallels to the fantasy world that Ofelia finds herself in and they eventually meet in a way that reminds me of Never-Ending Story.  It's a darker film though as a fairy tale that makes a certain amount of sense.  Writer and director, Guillermo del Toro typically captures the dark world that is evocative of Dante's Inferno or Odysseus's venture into the Underworld.  It's not outright hell, but damn close!
The trailer for this film can be found here.

PeeWee's Big Adventure (1985)

Though I didn't know it, PeeWee's Big Adventure was probably my first real introduction to camp and I was entirely mesmerized by it.  Mostly, because I didn't know what to make of it but still found it fascinating to watch.  I remember the first time I went to watch this film--I thought it was about PeeWee from the Smurfs (one of the two human characters).  I was initially disappointed but found myself watching the movie time and again.  The film has some great lines and great moments--both funny and for a young kid, scary at times.  Large Marge still haunts me and when PeeWee hisses; it's definitely uncomfortable.  Yet these are counterbalanced by other mesmerizing scenes such as his morning routine, his fetishistic obsession with his bike (something as a kid I could relate to), of course, the Tequilla dance scene at the biker bar.  It's such a crazy mix and works so well.  It is a shame that Burton's work feels largely less original and engaging with each passing movie, because this was definitely one of his best!

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

DVD Cover - Perks of Being a Wallflower
I connected with this film in some profound way (and followed up with reading the book--the film is a pretty faithful adaptation).  Charlie's life and experience are in many ways distinctly different, but there is certainly overlap that I recognize, particularly in the films final-third.  What I liked about the movie and the book is that it captures so well that idea of being both insider and outsider simultaneously: that weird sense of alienation while amongst friends that can be a hallmark of people battling depression or other emotional challenges.  In a way, it does its best to capture the outsider experience that so many feel while going through high school and though at times is celebratory, also captures some of the harsher realities and limitations that come with it. 
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Persepolis (2007)

DVD Cover - Persepolis
This adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel is one of the best adaptations out there.  Granted, this makes some sense given that the adaptation from comic to cartoon seems like an easier transition than to live-action film, but the film goes beyond just that.  The film captures so well Satrapi's juxtaposition of being a child in a world that is slowly becoming anything but a child's world.  The loss of innocence, privilege, and freedom comes in waves and realizations and the film communicates this well with its motion, sound effects, and soundtrack.  It feels a perfect compliment to the graphic novel.  I remember the first time watching it with trepidation as the film starts in color but then moves into black and white as the character, Marjane begins to reflect on the past.  Mayhaps it was because Satrapi worked on the film herself or just that the directors had a good sense of how to capture the narrative.  Regardless, it's a powerful but light film in the vein of Life Is Beautiful.
This film can be found here.

Pinocchio (2002)

DVD Cover - Pinocchio
I've always been a fan of Pinocchio.  I think it might have to do with the fact that Pinocchio and Pinocchio in Outer Space were two of the earliest films I owned as a kid and would watch them ceaselessly.  I always appreciated the idea of the puppet who aspired to be a boy.  Therefore, I grew ecstatic of the idea of a live-action Pinocchio being made, especially by Robert Benigni (as I had just seen him in Life Is Beautiful).  It seemed if someone could make it happen, it would be him.  And despite being a full adult male, he made it work with him as the titular character.  The film didn't get as much attention as I thought it might but I love this film.  It is quirky and magical and sometimes, utterly ridiculous.  But that is Pinocchio!  I remember first watching this film and feeling a little put off.  The film is dubbed rather than subtitled.  I thought they did this to attempt larger appeal but later on, I discovered it was because the dialogue moved so fast (and it does), that doing subtitles would have been next to impossible at times.  What was also questionable initially but eventually made sense and added to the film's quirkiness is that the film used famous actors for the voices.  So Jiminy Cricket appears as a dark olive-skinned bald man in the voice of John Cleese.  Disorienting for sure, but then again, a talking cricket should be disorienting! 
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Pom Poko (1994)

DVD Cover - Pom Poko
The film will always be known as "the ball sack movie" because that was the moniker my friend bestowed upon it after watching it.  But it is a curious tale from Japan.  The film focuses on a group of woodland creatures, mainly raccoons who come up against humans building houses on their land.  They must figure out how or if they can stop it and what to do about it.  However, raccoons are considered magical creatures with special powers in Japan, so their tools and resources means they are more creative in their assaults.  It's a powerful tale about environment, conflict, and shared resources that doesn't necessarily end happily.  That the film is over twenty years old and largely focused on children is pretty interesting given that films like this have only become popular in the last ten years.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

DVD Cover - Postman Always Rings Twice
Another great noir film from the mind of James Cain.  Because I saw them together, it always feels like the sister film to Double Indemnity.  But the film has its own unique rhythm and challenge for its characters  It has a bit more ironic justice than we see with Double Indemnity and we even believe at one point that these characters may indeed make it, but justice (and the Hayes Code) won't allow it.  The chemistry between Frank and Cora is pithy and passionate but one doomed to fail.  A part of you roots for them in the beginning but then as the story progresses, you realize they deserve each other--as punishment. 
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Princess Bride (1987)

It's a film that many people enjoyed after the fact.  Somehow, it arose from it's measly film release and became a cult-classic.  What's not to like in this film--it has a bit of everything for everyone.  Adventure, action, romance, and silly and inane humor.  Like other films (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), it a highly quotable movie that people regularly invoke at the most appropriate and inappropriate moments.  It's also a film that is steeped in the fantastic but not necessarily in special effects, which is rather impressive.  It's clear that some fantasy needs to rely on CGI and heavy special effect to tell its narrative.  But Princess Bride is fantasy without needed much of the fantastic that special effects deliver.   It makes me wonder what it would look like today if they tried to remake it.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Monoke was the first animated film I saw by Hayao Miyazaki and from Japan in my adult life and have left its impression.  It a well-told tale with a strong female lead and mixing history with fantasy in a beautifully animated film that is impressive to watch even now, nearly twenty years later.  I was amazed at the complexity of the plot, the length of the film (over two hours) and the culture within the film.  That is, I realize it is derived in part from Japanese folklore but having never been much exposed, it was intriguing to see the ideas of demons, gods, magic, nature, and technology all intermingling in the film.  It definitely left me with a great interest in Miyazaki and Japanese animation.
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Psycho (1960)

I grew up somewhat obsessed with this film--mostly because the two sequels had come out and there was supposedly (and eventually was) a fourth film coming.  It was the 1980s and slasher films were all the rage.  I didn't quite realize that Psycho was a bit different, but that's what being a kid is--no knowing the difference.  But Hitchcock's classic is still a powerful film that lingers.  It has all the markings of a noir film but goes sideways when one least expects it.  Anthony Perkins' performance still remains haunting to audiences over fifty years later and everyone's ears prick when they hear someone has mommy issues nowadays.  The most lingering image of this film is of course the final scene where we see Norman Bates sitting by himself with the voices of himself and his mother in his head.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Your turn!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Top 101 Films Part 9 (of 10)

We're getting so close to the final post.  It's about time, right?  So here we go with more of my favorites.  And for those not paying attention, here are the previous entries!

Rent (2005)

DVD Cover - Rent
To some who have read through my previous movies, may come to this one and decide that I am committing some kind of sin by putting a film that is an adaptation of a musical as one of my favorites.  Damn me as you must, but I do like this film--in part, because I have never seen Rent as a musical.  Mayhaps I would feel different, but as a fan of musical movies (there are clearly several on this list), I enjoyed the rock opera approach to Rent, the characters, the storylines and the music.  Having seen the movie, I can understand why people like and find this as an important musical of the 1990s.  I also like that they were able to bring in most of the original cast to make the movie.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

I remember Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes getting a lot of flack for this film.  In part, the critique that adapting Shakespeare into a modern tale of gang violence seemed somehow outrageous, even though it fit quite well.  I also know that they were teen heartthrobs and thus, their status discredited their potential.  But the reality is, the film still holds up almost twenty years later and it's telling that both actors have gone on to do additionally great work.   I think that the film is more accessible to a modern audience because of its setting and cast make it a more important film than previous renders.  Unlike others, I find that remakes are in fact necessary and useful.  They are not signs of a lack of imagination but rather informative of how we imagine and experience things differently.  The film is visually spectacular and well-constructed with its scenery.  I also love the soundtrack and it was one of the early films to which I found the movie powerfully (and consciously) enhanced through the music. 

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Run Lola Run (1999)

Another film with another great soundtrack--that seems to be the theme in the previous film, this one, and the next.  But beyond the soundtrack, Run Lola Run is a fascinating "What If" film, that reminds me of the TV show Sliders to a certain degree--but done much better.  The film retells the tale of two lovers and the choices they do and don't make three times, exploring how choices can entirely redirect our future.  It's a fascinating film to watch because as a viewer, we often try to imagine what would happen if the character turned left instead of right.  It doesn't matter how many times we see a film, we often still try to will the character away from his or her demise.  This film captures and we as viewer no longer need to will the characters to their survival but rather wait and see which decisions can lead to their salvation.  It's also an interesting film that engages with the ideas of action and inaction and when do you chose which (or if inaction is actually inaction for that matter but willing other forces to happen). 

This film can be found here.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

DVD Cover - Scott Pilgrim vs the World
For me, the film is so much more than the graphic novel.  I read some of the comic series and though it is enjoyable, it is nothing in contrast to the auditory and visual delight that I find when watching the film.  Michael Cera as the titular Scott Pilgrim embodies the mixture of quirky and awkward (quirkward?) and the mixture of music, 1980s video game sound effects, fantastic color schemes, and outrageous (yet appropriate) special effects come together for a fantastic experience.  The film feels like its two parts video game, two parts fantastic aural voyage, and one part plot--but that's ok.  The plot is present but plays second fiddle to the energy that is overflowing with this film.  It's a popcorn flick that hits the highwater mark of exciting and amusing.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Secretary (2002)

DVD Cover - Secretary
I'm not sure that this film succeeds in any good way in  terms of exploring and illustrating BDSM as an acceptable practice.  Those within the community are of varying opinions.  As an outsider, I do think it provides some potential positive elements and takes away from some of the misunderstandings (though it creates others).  But I do appreciate the film as a whole and the fantastic chemistry between Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader--it's quite palpable.  I also find that the film teaches much about the nature of power and agency in ways that other films can sometimes miss, especially relational power.  There's a part of me that can never watch The Office without thinking that Spader is the same character in the show as he is in this film, which makes so much of what he does in The Office, that much funnier.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Series 7:  The Contenders (2001)

This probably stands as one of my favorite films of all time (it would definitely be on my top 5 if I was ranking these).  The premise of the film is that it is the seventh season of a show called, The Contenders--a reality TV show, wherein they go to a town and five people are selected by lottery--the sixth person is the winner from the previous season.  Each person is given a gun and a filming crew and the last person standing is the winner.  The person from the 6th season is an 8-month pregnant woman named Dawn, who they decide to bring her to her home town for this season.  The premise of the show seems rather plain--after all, there is subgenre of films that are supposed to be reality-TV shows (often gone wrong).  But this film was made in 2000, just at the birth of reality TV.  However, the show nails the concept and this "best clips" film is so well composed with its commercial segues and musical backdrop to self-reflective moments with the camera that it's hard not to be impressed with how well the film captures and comments upon the the nature of reality TV.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

DVD Cover - Shaun of the Dead
It's a beautiful satirical work that can both embody and critique a genre and Shaun of the Dead nails it.  But what's great about the film is that it's amusing and entertaining not just for your standard zombie-film junkie but for everyone.  There are many inner jokes and references but they are slipped in so smoothly, the newcomer doesn't realize it and doesn't need to in order to enjoy the film.  Simon Pegg as your every-man asshat proves that civilization can't keep a good man down, especially when the zombie apocalypse comes to town.  It's a film that often gets better with rewatching as you pick up on different details that realized were built into the film to offer the more dedicated viewer a wink and a nod.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Singin in the Rain (1952)

I had the titular song of this film stuck in my head for about six months.  No lie--every time my mind went background music, it was Singin' in the Rain.  It happened long enough that I finally succumbed to seeing the movie and enjoyed it.  I've often been a fan of films or stories that are about the emergence of media--whether it be film, television, comics, the internet, it's always curious and fascinating how we try to retell the stories of our creations.  Beyond the plot, the music was also seductive and enjoyable with its light melodies and accompanying dancing.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Spaceballs (1987)

DVD Cover - Spaceballs
I've talked about Spaceballs elsewhere on this blog.  It is a film that I know by heart and can still repeat lines from--probably at one point, every line.  Many consider other films classic Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles) and much of Brooks is always high in my book, but Spaceballs is one of my earlier adventures into parody and I completely fell in love with it.  It's interesting that years later, I realize that this film along with The Never-Ending Story were essential for introducing me into meta-fiction and other post-modern ideas, many of which made shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy so funny.  It was also such a great collection of actors and actresses coming together to make this mockery fo Star Wars that it was hard not to enjoy seeing them on screen--including one of my favorites, John Candy.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Star Wars (1977-)

DVD Cover - Star Wars Saga
Here, I am referencing the entire series--films 1-6.  I grew up loving Episodes 4-6 and have learned to love Episodes 1-3.  I get why people don't like them and there are times when I curse the casting of Hayden Christiansen as Anakin because he seems whiny beyond all comprehension, but then again, I can't stand Boba Fett and people like to think he's cool (world's best bounty hunter; done in by a blind Han Solo).  But I grew up with watching the original trilogy ibn VHS and watched the prequel trilogy on the big screen.  Between the two series, I read at least a hundred novels and graphic novels about the Star Wars universe known as the Expanded Universe.  It's not for everyone but it was as fantastical adventure as were many of the other films mentioned in this list (e.g. Dark Crystal, The Hobbit, Never-Ending Story).  It's not that I think the films are great in some kind of higher aesthetic assessment, but they are merely great to me.  I enjoy them.  I know I can pop in any one of the films and get lost in the universe presented before me.  It was one of the earlier films to introduce me to grand concepts of good and evil as well as sacrifice, surprises, and tragedy.  Star Wars is to me, what great epics were to previous generations.

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Your turn!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Top 101 Films Part 7 (of 10)

I've finally returned to this series and here comes the next ten.  If you missed my previous entries--where have you been!?!?!?  Here's the running list of previous entries!

Metropolis (2001)

DVD cover to Metropolis (2001)
While Fritz Lang's epic film will always be classic and essential viewing for anyone studying film, this version of Metropolis is lovely.  This animated feature is inspired by Osamu Tezuka's manga of the same name which was originally inspired by Lang's masterpiece.  It varies in parts from both the original film and the manga.  The plot is standard anime fare in terms of it mixes genres (dystopia, noir, science fiction) and raises a variety of questions about humanity.  But what makes the film stand out above other anime and as an excellent film is the soundtrack.  Rather than using techno or other music genres generally associated with anime, the soundtrack is dominated by jazz, making for a surreal experience that is superb.  Looking at this futuristic world with a jazz soundtrack makes it simultaneously new and nostalgic.  Coupled with this is a more complex look at technology that raises questions beyond the machines and really questions the power structures of human society while also recognizing that the human-machine relationship has room for different ideas.

The trailer for this film can be found here.



MirrorMask (2005)

DVD Cover - MirrorMask 2005
This masterpiece comes from the wonderful minds of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.  Their work creates a cinematic collage that is a visual, aural, and emotional experience that is pure delight.  As someone who grew up with the wonder of The Never-Ending Story (see below), it captures the power of storytelling, the bridging of one's imagination with the real world, and purposeful fantasy.  It transports me into the fantasy world to a degree in which it feels authentic--even if it isn't real.  To this, much is owed to McKean who can create surreal worlds through his collage-approach to art.  He seems to take the every-day artifacts of life and weave them into a very curious and disorienting world that works so well, you'll want to visit them.  Like so many Gaiman's stories (and The Never-Ending Story), it contains a level of meta-fiction that always gets me.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Modern Times (1936)

It took a long time for me to finally sit down and watch Modern Times.  I have seen snippets of it for as long as I can remember but never felt compelled to watch it.  However, after hearing it referenced in a number of books, some dealing with film and others dealing with technology, it seemed that I couldn't go much longer without seeing it.  Of course, I instantly fell in love with it.  The criticism on technology is present--much like it is with Metropolis.  However, in both cases, it's worth noting that the technology is the tool of oppression--not necessarily the tool itself.  It's clear from the film that the supervisor and his authority are what causes so much trouble for Marx's character.  Indeed, authority is the problem throughout that keeps Marx and the woman from succeeding or continually impeding their ability to find stability and make something for themselves.  Their desire to work isn't impeded by technology but by the authoritative forces that would rather reduce them to de facto slave labor either in the form of prison labor or factory labor.

This film can be found here.



Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

DVD Cover of Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Never has there been a more quotable movie than Monty Python.  It's a fantastic post-modern comedy that it enrages some while leaving others in tears.  I remember the first time I came across it.  It was playing on PBS and I came in about half-way through.  I couldn't make sense of it but couldn't turn away from it.  It had bad special effects, split into cartoon at times, and a series of events that was considered to be its plot but felt like glued-together paper.  And yet, it worked so well and continued to work to today.  Whether it is the Knights Who Say Nee or the coconuts or the Holy Handgrenade, it all seems ridiculous, but somehow both fits for the humor and the narrative.  Ultimately, it is a film that never takes itself serious--and that is the only thing it takes serious.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Never-Ending Story (1984)

DVD Cover - Neverending Story
As far as I can recall, this is the first movie that ever made me cry.  Every kid that grew up watching the film knows exactly when this happens:  When Artax, Atreyu's horse, gives up and drowns in the Swamps of Sadness.  The masterpiece of that scene to make youth feel death in a way that may not yet be palpable to them yet is so powerful.  But beyond that, the movie as a whole is a magical exploration for any child who can lose himself (or herself) in a book and think about fantastic worlds that may exist.  The book's turn into meta-fiction at the end seems equally powerful in its ability to reach out to the child viewer and tell them that these fictitious worlds are real in some profound way.  Rolled into all of this is also the powerful story of the outsider, Sebastian who in some ways becomes the insider, Atreyu to save the princess.  The film is filled with oedipal influences (the princess is a form of his mother) and the Campbell's hero's journey, but the child doesn't realize this until years later.  The child just enjoys the story.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Newsies (1992)

Newsies was the film that made me want to be in a musical.  First, there was Christian Bale--I found him fascinating (and still do).  However, there was also the music.  I've never been a music aficionado; I've just known when I found music powerful and moving to me.  Newsies had a soundtrack that had many sounds that energized and moved me.  In fact, it still regularly features on my playlist decades later.  Of course, I was biased to enjoy the film from the get-go because of course, I spent seven years of my life as a paper-boy.  Clearly, I was not anywhere near the dire conditions depicted in the film.  I had a very easy newspaper route.  But it certainly pulled me into the film more strongly. 

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Night of the Living Dead (1968)

DVD Cover - Night of the Living Dead
I admit that I wasn't that impressed with the first few times I encountered this film.  After all, I grew up in the 1980s, watching horror films of that time (like the next film).  It didn't strike me as impressive--it wasn't even gory.  How could that be the standard bearer fro all future zombie films?  But then I grew up and in growing up, I came to begin to look at horror films more critically, write about post-9/11 zombie narratives, and even teach a course on monsters.  When I revisited the film in this context, it became apparent that George R. Romero and his fellow filmmakers were pretty kick-ass.  The politics of the film (featuring an African American male lead) coupled with these relentless and mindless beings seeking to obliterate humankind made for a perfect coupling, especially when shot in black and white.  Taking individually, none of these items would have made it on its own but together, they make quite the film.  

This film can be found here.



Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

As we get to this film, it's becoming clear that I dig films that blend reality with fiction.  Neverending Story, MirrorMask, Monty Python and many others all play with this idea in some fashion.  Nightmare on Elm Street was the horror film that introduced me to the world where fiction meets reality.  I was fascinated by the idea that we are haunted in the real world by our dreams.  Years later, it came to no surprise to me that Wes Craven was originally an English high school teacher.  For those that say television and film are wastes of time, they certainly played a pivotal role in me becoming a reader.  I was also fascinated with Freddy because unlike his counterparts--Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers--he talked a good deal.  In fact, in later movies, that was part of the fun--to see what lines he was going to deliver with the next kill.  In reflecting on it, it reminds me of a documentary I've used in class about EC Comics wherein they talk about the Cryptkeeper from Tales from Crypt.  The humor always leveled off the violence.  It was a wink and a nod to admitting the fiction.  I also attribute the Nightmare on Elm Street series to a regular sense of being aware that I'm dreaming when I'm asleep and asking for "replays".

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Normal (2003)

Tom Wilkinson plays a man who decides to transition to a female in his 50s while living in middle-America town working at a factory, despite the reservations from his wife and children.  The film is not perfect in its portrayal of transsexuals and yet, it was one of the few mainstream TV films up until that point that didn't display a transperson as entirely tragic or ridiculous.  Thoguh there are confrontations throughout and the couple find themselves losing family and friends, the wife finds she is still capable of loving the transitioned character.  It's a powerful but quiet movie.  Wilkinson manages to walk the fine line of trying to find his way to her without being exploitative or exaggerating.  The couple prove that normal is just a word that we all find our own way to.

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Nosferatu (1922)

DVD Cover - Nosferatu
The earliest vampire film that is known to date.  Based upon Dracula by Bram Stoker but ordered to be destroyed by his wife (he had died a decade previously), the film survived and continues to be a hallmark of great film.  The use of angles, lens filtering, musical score, use of shadows, and other visual effects are significant enough that the film still holds up today for those that can enjoy a silent film.   Max Schreck as Count Orlok proves a haunting image that can still haunt the viewer years later.  His gestures, his eyes and his alien features are sufficient enough to make one run the other way.  Numerous other films have tried to capture the horror of Dracula, but few have come as close as Nosferatu.  Additionally, the film works well as a silent film, relying on textual elements like title cards to tell its story because that was part of the power of Dracula--it was a novel told in words; letters, recordings, newspaper articles, etc.  Nosferatu maintains some of that in its production that other adaptations typically lose.  

This film can be found here.


Your turn!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.