My Top 101 Films Part 2 (of 10)

So as you all know by now, this is part two of an ongoing series of my favorite 101 films.  These next ten are just as random as the first in terms of topics, genres, etc.  Be sure to check out the first 10 on the list here.

Beowulf (2007)

I've talked about why I like this film before.  It both embraces and rejects the original poem of Beowulf but does so in a way that actually makes a good deal of sense (or can do it without actually refuting the poem itself).  It's a film that is deeply concerned with storytelling and capturing the story as opposed to capturing reality.  In doing so, it presents a reality that never becomes the myth.  That's what makes it so fascinating for me.  It tells us this very well could have been the story of Beowulf, but to tell someone's story (and someone other than Beowulf would have to tell his story) is to change the story and mayhaps, this is how that happened.  In truth, I didn't like the film when I first watched it but as I reread Beowulf, read Tolkien's famous essay and revisited the film, it all came together.  The CGI dynamics of the film were interesting but nothing special and Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother in near nakedness was more distracting than interesting.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

Blair Witch Project (1999)

DVD Cover - Blair Witch Project
Of course, this film made my list of films that freak me the hell out!  It's a well-constructed movie that nurses the viewers on a trickle of information just enough to keep them interested but not enough to be fully sustained.  The viewers are regularly on the verge of understanding, just to have it ripped from their grasp.  It's the classic indie film turned hit story but it's clear why it worked.  Simple but essential filming tactics that drew upon a history of horror protocol such as the advice by Stephen King, I think, to never show the monster or the filming approach by Hitchcock in which we are the eyes of the character.  It's also a film of the time.  The creators use of the internet and creating a viral campaign was ingeniously done.  I think of the films that have been created in it's wake such as the Paranormal Activity series and other video-diary films and find that they are still invoking and calling upon this as their base of inspiration.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

Boys Don't Cry (1999)

DVD Cover - Boys Don't Cry
A brutal film like others on this list, it's still an essential film in my collection.  The murder of Brandon Teena and his friends (though the film doesn't cover the African American that was killed with him) is a tragedy of many sorts.  In the wake of his murder, the trans community has become an increasingly vocal and powerful group within our culture (for the better!).  I studied this film a lot when working on my first Master's Degree final project (which focused on representation of trans-people in television and film).  Hilary Swank does an amazing job in portraying Brandon and the ways he engaged with others.  I think the power of the film is in it's sheer brutality in the final act.  Violence is a challenging element to represent in film but at times, it must be presented.  Not to exploit but to call out the exploitation.  I feel the film is able to do this quite well.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

Brick (2005)

I'm a fan of film noir, ever since I was first introduced to it when taking a film in popular culture class after I finished college.  It's a romantic view of a gritty world and I appreciate that dynamic.  In this capacity, I feel that Brick captures the spirit of film noir and re-positions it in a high school setting seamlessly.  The snappy dialogue, the camera angles, the lighting, and the overall mood of the story seem to revive the genre and show it can still be done.  That it is done among teenagers could be for several equally interested (and overlapping) reasons.  Teenagers increasingly make up a major part of movie-going audiences.  Noir might be old-hat to adults but unfamiliar to youth; however, doing noir as in the past would require a more adult-oriented cast and therefore distance the attendees from the subject.  Finally, (and most likely), noir with its particular traits and dynamics can easily translate into the world of the teenager.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Frankenstein is also on this list, but I need to speak about Bride.  Whale's sequel to the original is a fascinating look at many things.  The opening scene with Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and XXX, is amusing as much as it is bizarre.  The rolling R's of XXX is as questionable as the sexual chemistry in the room--who is after whom?  That weird dynamic follows into the film as characters prey upon and after one another, Frankenstein, the creature, Dr. Pretorius, and the Bride seem to all be unclear about who or what they want.  The film also have some of the more strange or random elements within it such as the servant who yells and squawks.  Though clearly part of the comic relief, she seems just as weird and quirky within the film as Pretorious's jars of little people.  However, the driving beat of the film for each of the characters to have a companion and to produce something that is long-lasting may have been well-received or felt by the Great Depression audiences that watched it.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)

Less brutal but equally insightful as Boys Don't Cry, this film plays straight with gender identity to show just how strange and weird they can be.  The film reveals a great many flaws about how we perceive our gender and sex.  As my cousin says, Jan is an unsung hero of the film in that she rejects what's expected of her based upon how she presents herself.  It is a film that rejects the sexual and gender repression present in society and embodied by the heads of the camp, True Directions.  One of the most interesting elements of the film that I always come back to is the intervention with Megan.  That her family has an intervention and outs her is one of the most disturbing elements of the film in that they decide to interpret her acts, define them as lesbian, and go about changing them.  Their decision serves as the catalyst to all that happens and one wonders how Megan might have turned out without their interference.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

Cabin in the Woods (2012)

DVD Cover - Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon's homage to all things horror is a highly enjoyable film.  It's a film that is both amusing for it's satirical approach to horror and well done in that there are some deliciously horrific things done within the film (merman, for instance).  I'm also happy that to see many of his familiar actors that he has enlisted in his TV Shows over the years.  More importantly, I think this film represents much of Whedon's work (which is pretty substantial in film, television, and comics).  The film starts with a basic premise that is fairly predictable--a typical horror trope wherein in the protagonists, a group of college students, take a trip to a cabin in the woods for some good ole fashion fun entailing drugs, sex, and alcohol.  But their trip is not just any trip, it is part of a larger pattern of opportunities to sacrifice to some evil gods.  And that is the key to understanding Whedon--particularly his shows.  The first season (or first hour of this film) is usually about status quo building  Establishing the norm within the story.  It's only later that the norm is the develop and connected to some higher mythology and becomes more complex and enjoyable.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

A Christmas Story (1983)

DVD Cover - A Christmas Story
This is the definitive Christmas movie for me.  While there are many great Christmas films out there and in my later years, I've grown to appreciate It's a Wonderful Life, this film lovingly but realistically portrays the experience of Christmas as I experienced it.  It's miscellaneous collection of events pooled together around the question for THE perfect Christmas gift reminds me so much of my childhood.  The ceremonies of the month leading up to the event as well as the day itself and various exciting moments (oooh!  I got what wanted!) and disappointments (Not another sweater!).  Many don't realize that it is based upon a book or collection of short stories and does well with blending them together into an enjoyable and classic Christmas film.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

Clockwork Orange (1971)

As a youth, this film was clearly attractive for its stylized approach and violence (though the rape scenes always caused some trouble).  However, as an adult I'm more fascinated by the film's message about the nature of violence and the choice to do violence and where is that line.  The film is timely in that while we currently don't use conditioning in the same capacity as the film, we have seen instances where medical techniques have been used to prevent criminals upon release from being capable of repeating their crimes.  For instance, the use of chemical castration on sexual predators (that is, the requirement to take medicine to eliminate sexual libido).  There are also drugs that can be taken for alcoholics that when they do take alcohol, it causes a vicious reaction within the body to better condition them to associate alcohol with bodily revulsion.  In this way, Kubrick's film is ahead of its time and raises that question of free will and determinism in a fascinating way.  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

The Closet (2001)

DVD Cover - The Closet
I love this film for what it teaches us about perception and where that leads us.  That the entire understanding of a man goes from extremely boring to fascinating by his colleagues all based around the idea that he is no longer just an accountant but now believed to be gay contains some fascinating truths to it plays into different cognitive biases such as fundamental attribution and group attribution bias.  The film not only has some genuinely funny moments to it, it also serves as a film about mid-life crises, love, and trying to be the best version of yourself.  Also, it has a kitten--so props to that!  The trailer for this film can be found on Youtube.

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

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