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Saved by the Bell (1989)
My 10 favorite episodes
SBTB is classic TV. Don't be surprised when it shows up at Nick at Nite in a few years. That being said, here are my 10 favorite episodes:
10. Zack becomes Principal and has to defend the football team when Kelly, who is a teacher for a week, fails them in history.
9. Kelly's little sister falls for Zack and Zack acts like a nerd in order to let her down easy.
8. The 2 parter where Jesse's dad gets married and they all go to a beach resort somewhere...
7. The most heartbreaking episode yet where Kelly dumps Zack for her boss Jeff at the dance where they are dressed up as Romeo and Juliet.
6. Kelly and Zack, Lisa and Screech, and Jesse and Slater become married in a class project. Lisa and Screech get divorced because she is allergic to him.
5. Screech tutors Kelly and falls hard for her. This one contains the classic line where Screech calls Mr. Belding a melonhead.
4. Zack uses subliminal messages to get Kelly to ask him to the dance and to have Mr. Belding lessen his punishmesnt. "Zack Morris is a good kid. Zack Morris is a blond Tom Cruise." Indeed.
3. Zack and the gang get drunk at a toga party and smash up Lisa's car.
2. Zack and the gang form Zack Attack and their career rise and fall is narrated by Casey Kasem.
1. Jesse takes caffeine pills in order to study for math and to rehearse for the dance act. This is a FANTASTIC episode. "I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so.... SCARED!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Almost Famous (2000)
Best of the year
"Almost Famous" is a simple movie. It's not about explosions or flashy action scenes. It's not concerned with how "hip" it is and it doesn't exist to capitalize on any given trend. This movie is about real people, and that's what makes it so good.
The story is an old one, about a young boy who goes on a journey and learns about himself and about life. It's almost a modern day "Huckleberry Finn," but this movie does not rely on cliches.
The characters are all three dimensional people that do not exist solely to move the plot along, nor are they given long speeches to explain the "point" of the movie. The director Cameron Crowe lets the movie speak for itself. All the performances are great. We can see why William loves Penny, yet we can see how Penny is destroying herself. Kate Hudson does a great job with a great character who brings to mind a combination of Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and her own mother, Goldie Hawn. Patrick Fugit, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, and Billy Crudup are all great as well, but Hudson is the real find here. This is the fourth movie that Crowe has directed. He hasn't made a bad one yet, but "Almost Famous" is his best. Crowe always makes the characters real and believable and pays attention to the details lurking around edges of the movie. The stories he writes never follow the conventional formula. He always gets great performances from his actors, just look at John Cusack in "Say Anything" and Tom Cruise in "Jerry Maguire." As long as he keeps making movies, I will go to see them.
Princess Mononoke is a classic of epic proportions. Unlike any animated film I have ever seen, "Princess Mononoke" is truly amazing. The characters are real, the storyline is complex and the visuals are great. Usually we go to the movies to see another world and this film takes us there. The only live action film I would even dare compare it to would be "Lawrence of Arabia." If you are a fan of anime or of fantasy, I would recommend this movie.
Annie Hall (1977)
A wonderfully modern romance
Woody Allen's masterpiece will always be "Annie Hall." What is most remarkable today about this film is the way Allen presents it. It's a movie about a relationship. But rather than taking a linear approach, Allen plays with time. We see the middle, the begining, and the end. And not always in that order. Allen also breaks the fourth wall a lot and has many dream sequences and asides which add to the complexity of the characters. This is a highly autobiographical film and Allen pulls no punches. This movie is not about romance in the way that "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is. Rather, "Annie Hall" is a deconstruction of a romance. At times it is funny and heartbreaking and always classic. "Love fades," indeed.
Forget about the blues tonight!
"Xanadu" is one of the worst, yet most enjoyable movies ever made. The plot makes little sense, yet the movie is so crammed with stuff that you can't help watching it. There are ridicously bad musical numbers, pre-ILM effects, an animated sequence, all those blinding colors, and of course ROLLER SKATES! This movie is one of the worst movies ever made, but it is definitly enjoyable for kids of all ages. I wish they made more movies like "Xanadu."
This was supposed to end the Friday series once and for all. Instead, this one made more money than they predicted and they kept on making sequels. However, this is the final chapter for the series for a few reasons. Jason isn't dead until this one. At least, that's my opinion. In this one, he's still sort of human and bleeds from time to time. This is also the last of the series to look like it was shot by a home movie camera in the 70's. But, hey, isn't that part of the charm of these movies?
The movie starts off pretty cool, with a recap of the Jason legend and flashbacks from previous movies. The movie starts off immediately after Friday 3 ends. Jason's body is taken to the morgue where he isn't really dead and lots of people die. Jason makes his way back to Crystal Lake. Twelve years old Tommy and virginal teen Trish live on Crystal Lake with their mother. (Don't they get bored out there though? To me Crystal Lake has always looked boring, not to mention the fact that their phones probably don't work.) Anyway, a bunch of teens are vacationing next door and Jason has people to slaughter! Let the body count begin! Oh yeah, there's also this hunter who is out to kill Jason for killing his sister. Guess what happens to him? Tommy and Trish are left to live and Tommy shaves his head trying to look like young Jason hoping that Jason will think that Tommy is him (or something) and that way Tommy can kill Jason. Jason is really dead in this one and Tommy winds up a little crazy. This one is more of the same but it's definitely an improvement on Part 3. For one thing, there are not zero, not one, but TWO, count them TWO real actors in this movie. Corey Feldman (from the classic `Goonies' and the even classicker `Stand By Me') plays young Tommy, a kid obsessed with video games and horror movies. Let's not forget Crispin Glover (George McFly from the `Back To The Future' series and also `River's Edge', `Wild At Heart' and other weird movies) as `Jimbo.' Corey and Crispin alone make the movie worthwhile. Crispin's dancing is just so bad it has to be seen to be believed. When Corey goes psycho and starts hacking Jason to pieces, it's really cool. I have no idea what sets him off, but boy is he one pissed pre-teen! It's really a shame Corey wasn't in any of the sequels (not counting his cameo in A New Beginning).
My Favorite Death: Corkscrew Through Crispin Glover Grade: B
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
What happened to Paul?
The first of the sequels starts off with Jason hunting down and killing Alice, the plucky virginal heroine from the first movie. He even shoves his mother's head in her fridge to scare her! Pretty gross, huh? So now that they've killed everyone from the first movie, the writers decide to jump ahead five years in time and introduce a whole new group of counselors who drink, do drugs, have sex, and ignore the legend of Camp Blood.
More of a remake than a sequel since the plot is virtually identical to the first. Young teens get slaughtered by crazed killer. This one differs in that Jason is the killer this time and not his mother. Presumably Jason is back from the dead to avenge his mother's death. But how then did Jason grow from a twelve year old boy to a twenty five year old man in 5 years? And wasn't he dead in the first place? Ignore the silly questions and you can enjoy this movie. It's every bit as fun as the first one with the typically dated styles of clothing and the cheap quality of film stock. But I like to ask questions and I always wondered why Jason's mother never came back from the grave too. I mean, if Jason can, why can't she? Also, isn't there any other place besides Crystal Lake to open up a summer camp? And why does Jason keep mommy's head? It shows up in this movie almost as much as naked teenagers! But why quibble?
The most interesting thing about this movie is that Jason is portrayed as more of a wild animal, almost misunderstood. In the later films, he is just an unrelenting killer. In this one, Jason's getting revenge for his mother's death and he seems more like a confused kid than the psycho we are more familiar with.
There are some undeniably cool moments in this one like the double impaling and the death of the handicapped kid. Even though it's cheesy at the end when Ginny uses her child psychology against Jason, it's funny in that oh so special unintentional kind of way. The funniest thing about this movie though is that when the handicapped kid goes missing, where does everyone look for him? That's right, UPSTAIRS! Now how would someone in a wheelchair get up the stairs? Little things like that make my day.
One thing I did not like about this movie is the ending. One minute Jason lunges toward Ginny and then the camera cuts to Ginny being taken to the hospital. What happened in between? I guess there were some things that Friday the 13th fans just weren't meant to know...
My Favorite Death: Double Impaling With Spear
Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
So that's why goalies wear masks!
My least favorite of the series, this one is important for two reasons. One: This is the one where Jason gets his mask. In Part 2 he wore a bag over his head making him look not unlike the Elephant Man. Two: This one was filmed in 3-D and it shows.
There's lots of killing with little gore this time and no nudity. This is the first flick that we actually see Jason die in. Oh yeah and mommy makes a special reappearance from the lake in a scene that rips off the ending of the first movie. Jason must be such a loving son to reattach his mommy's head to her body! Why didn't she come back in Part IV to do the killings? Argh!
Basically, this is a re-tread over familiar territory except that it's just a bunch of teens going on vacation rather than opening a summer camp. But Jason still kills them all. Except for the biker kids and a few of the deaths, I found this one really dull. There's nothing particularly BAD about it, it's just nothing special.
My Favorite Death: Pitchfork Through Fox, The Punk Biker Girl
Movement is key
I love Trainspotting because of the way it attacks your sense and plays with the conventions of moviemaking. This movie flows fast and furious from beginning to end with a killer soundtrack that perfectly compliments the movie. Though it's about drug addiction, I don't think Trainspotting glorifies the use of heroin at all. True, it may paint a more realistic picture, but it does show you the horrors of withdrawal. Trainspotting is so vibrant, so alive, that even when the Scottish accents are a bit hard to understand, you still get a sense of what's going on. The dialogue is hysterical at times and the way the Irvine Welsh's novel was adopted for the screen was well done, in my opinion. Trainspotting assaults you from beginning to end with non-stop images, intriguing characters, and some great lines.
Paris Is Burning (1990)
Joyous, yet heartbreaking
"Paris Is Burning" is one of the best documentaries ever in that it perfectly captures a world that exists within our own and makes it seem totally alien to us. While I am not unfamiliar with drag queens and New York City (I am a young gay man who was raised an hour from New York City in suburban New Jersey), this movie's take on drag balls in the 80's is very eye opening. Much of what have become standard gay phrases and actions are explained here, such as "reading" and "voguing." Even the "houses" are explained. But what makes this movie memorable are the people. Drag queens are all about attitude and flamboyance, but this movie takes us behind that to the sorrow and desperation and the need to be accepted, by family, by society, and by our peers. This is a very important "queer" film that says a lot about gay society in America. For a challenge, watch this on a Double Feature with "Wigstock", a documentary about the (formerly) annual Drag Festival in New York City.