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I'll try to keep this shortish.
My name is Clifford. I was born in 1987 and have grown up in Redwood City and Half Moon Bay, both on the San Francisco Peninsula. That's not to say, though, that I haven't traveled: Outside of the United States, I've been to six continents (My favorite? I could never really pick, but I like to answer South Africa when asked.) I'm currently a film students doctoral student at USC by way of undergrad & masters from UCLA, and who knows where I'll wind up next. I love movies, classical music, trivia, books, traveling, skiing, chess, and arguing, not necessarily in that order. I feel somewhat indebted to IMDb for sparking a latent interest in movies back in 2004 that has steadily grown in intensity ever since.
MY FAVORITE DIRECTORS
h] Robert Altman
[rainbow] Hayao Miyazaki
[roll] Woody Allen
[clown] Federico Fellini
[noir] Francis Ford Coppola
[angry] Akira Kurosawa
[none] Howard Hawks
[glasses] Sidney Lumet
[trendy] Martin Scorsese
[smile] Steven Spielberg
[cool] Quentin Tarantino
[white] Orson Welles
[eek] Fred Zinnemann
MY FAVORITE ACTORS
MY FAVORITE ACTRESSES
MY FAVORITE MOVIES
I have many favorites, and ranking them always gives me grief. So here is my list, stratified but not ranked:
Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away) (2001) Nashville (1975)
12 Angry Men (1957) 8� (1963) Amadeus (1984) Annie Hall (1977) Apocalypse Now (1979) Beauty and the Beast (1991) Bringing Up Baby (1938) Casablanca (1942) Cidade de Deus (City of God) (2002) Citizen Kane (1941) Fantasia (1940) Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) High Noon (1952) His Girl Friday (1940) Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) (1988) Modern Times (1936) Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke) (1997) Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1989) The Philadelphia Story (1940) Pulp Fiction (1994) The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai) (1954) Singin� in the Rain (1952) Sunset Blvd. (1950) The Wizard of Oz (1939)
All About Eve (1950) The Band Wagon (1953) La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) (1966) Chinatown (1974) Cleo de 5 a 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7) (1961) The Day of the Jackal (1973) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) The General (1927) Goodfellas (1990) Gosford Park (2001) Ikiru (1952) It�s a Wonderful Life (1946) Kumonosu j� (Throne of Blood) (1957) The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) North by Northwest (1959) One Flew Over the Cuckoo�s Nest (1975) La Passion de Jeanne d�Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) (1928) Schindler�s List (1993) Smultronst�llet (Wild Strawberries) (1957) Stagecoach (1939) Tenk� no shiro Rapyuta (Castle in the Sky) (1986) You Can�t Take It with You (1938)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Adaptation. (2002) Being There (1979) The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Brokeback Mountain (2005) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Deconstructing Harry (1998) Father of the Bride (1950) Fargo (1996) The Gay Divorcee (1934) The Godfather (1972) The Godfather: Part II (1974) The Gold Rush (1925) La Grande illusion (Grand Illusion) (1937) The Great Dictator (1940) Great Expectations (1946) Harvey (1950) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) The Incredibles (2004) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Jaws (1975) JFK (1991) Kill Bill (2003-2004) L.A. Confidential (1997) The Lady Eve (1941) The Last Picture Show (1971) The Lion in Winter (1968) The Little Mermaid (1989) Million Dollar Baby (2004) The Maltese Falcon (1941) The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Memento (2000) Network (1976) Notorious (1946) Persona (1966) The Princess Bride (1987) Psycho (1960) Rash�mon (1950) Rio Bravo (1959) Star Wars (1977) The Thin Man (1934) The Third Man (1949) This Is Spinal Tap (1984) To Kill a Mockingbird (1964) Ugetsu monogatari (1953) Unforgiven (1992) The Verdict (1982) La Vita � bella (Life is Beautiful) (1997) Waking Life (2001) Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) (2000)
Airplane! (1980) Almost Famous (2000) American Beauty (1999) Ben-Hur (1959) Big Fish (2003) Blazing Saddles (1974) Cinderella Man (2005) The Departed (2006) Field of Dreams (1989) Forrest Gump (1994) The Game (1997) Gandhi (1982) Gentleman's Agreement (1947) Girl Shy (1924) Laura (1944) Match Point (2006) Mulholland Dr. (2001) Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) Only Angels Have Wings (1939) Paths of Glory (1957) The Player (1992) Saving Private Ryan (1998) The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Sleeping Beauty (1959) Stand by Me (1988) Star Wars: Episode V � The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Star Wars: Episode VI � Return of the Jedi (1983) The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) (1988) Tootsie (1982) Trouble in Paradise (1932) Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1989)
What a fun, demented movie! After the original pirates, I wasn't sure if a sequel could stay as clever and offbeat, but Dean Man's Chest delivers on nearly every front! Yes, it's great to see Johnny Depp's bizarre creation, Jack Sparrow, again, and this time to peer into his mind. The original film never really took a close look at the character, who returns this time with motivation, complexity, and (perhaps) genuine conflicting emotions. This installment also takes care of Orlando Bloom, whose character is given much more of a chance to be both leading man and action hero. Only Keira Knightley is given the short shrift, giving a great performance but only having a few scenes that really give her a chance to do anything with her character.
The special effects are as spectacular as it gets in this jaded age of CGI, and the fight sequences are intense and energetic. But what I loved the most about this movie was how wonderfully weird and demented it is. I won't give anything away, but just from the trailer you can already see Jack's eye makeup, a duel on a rolling mill wheel, and a villain with an octopus for a head, all much fresher and more demented than anything you usually find in Hollywood outside of the realm of Tim Burton. I had no idea Disney did things like that! This movie definitely lacks the strong, uncontrived storyline of its predecessor, clumsily maneuvering a number of contrivances to get the story rolling. The resulting plot is more a travelogue than anything, but fun nevertheless. It also picks up speed toward the end, and, for a film that sets itself up for the next installment, still works pretty well as standalone fare.
Anyway, this movie, like the first, is first and foremost an exercise in camp and offbeat swashbucklery, which it delivers beautifully. Be warned that there are frequent references to the original film, many of them clever, others quite predictable. Still, as an extension of the original world and characters of Pirates of the Caribbean, this movie excels takes the cake, and in terms of blockbuster entertainment, there's nothing fresher or better under the sun.
The Iron Giant (1999)
What more animated movie should be: a thoughtful, funny, touching story.
After seeing this movie, I was overcome by a strange feeling. I realized that I had found a treasure where I had least expected it. The Iron Giant is intelligent, funny, touching, and visually superb, and should show the world that an animated movie does not need to be A) computer-animated, or B) based on a fairy tale to be successful. One of the best American-made children's movies I have seen in a decade: 8.5/10.0
Now, I'm a 17-year-old who is slowly transitioning into the domain of movie buffdom, which basically means that I am watching a stream of movies based on recommendations from friends, critics, and the IMDb Top 250 list. I got this one almost by accident after the local rental place could not find the movie I was really after, choosing it basically on the knowledge that it was the previous project of Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles (a personal favorite). After watching it, I felt like calling up every mother I knew and telling her to have her children (and herself) watch this.
The Iron Giant revolves around an adventurous young boy in 1950s small-town America who discovers a gigantic robot out in the woods that has arrived on Earth from goodness-knows-where. He befriends the robot, while trying to keep him safe from a nosy government agent. The story seldom lags, with a series of comical adventures connected by the boy's growing relationship with his friend.
This movie is very appealing as entertainment. The voices are well-done, and the scenery is also terrific. Most importantly, though, is the animation, which is a bright spot from this time period. The characters are well-drawn, especially the Giant, who through terrific design, lifelike movements, and clever small touches (i.e., the eyes) seems both alien and human, imposing and childlike. Furthermore, the animation is comical. I don't know when I have ever seen slapstick or punchlines so well-complimented by the animation. The script, written by Bird and based off the book The Iron Man, is also very well done. Though the movie relies upon a few minor crutches common to children's movies, it is still very original and clever.
One thing that I must point out about this movie is its morals. Throughout the movie, the main moral of the story, about the Iron Giant learning and choosing to be good, is actually fairly adroitly handled. At no point when the subject comes up, including standard sentimental climax, does the idea seem contrived. Throughout the movie, evidence of Bird's influence by comic books is quite evident, and his ultimate message about heroes (variations of which will resurface in The Incredibles) is relevant and sincere. However, I do have to say that the secondary moral, about the evils of xenophobia and paranoia, both of which are embodied by the movie's antagonist, the government agent and the military, are very politically charged. While this may sound initially controversial and politically charged for a kids' movie (the second of which I do not deny), I noticed that it was in large part a thoughtful spoof of Cold War America, with jokes as well as valuable lessons about "duck and cover" and 1950s nuclear edginess that I found very clever.
On a final note, I do have to point out that this movie had me laughing hard, but more importantly, it brought me closer to tears than any animated movie I can remember (including Bambi), closer than I like to admit. I wish that I had discovered it sooner, and I hope that everyone gets the chance to experience it the way I did.
Ying xiong (2002)
A Work of Art
I give this movie credit for being one of the most unique and beautiful that I have ever seen. Ying Xiong's acting, dialogue, and inherent art make it a standard of excellence.
Going into this movie, I was expecting some sort of stock Chinese action movie, with costumes and Jet Li. What I saw was a grand but unassuming epic. The movie is based upon a historical legend dating back to the early days of China's history. The story concerns with Nameless, an anonymous commoner who has earned the gratitude of the King of Qin for his defeat of three legendary assassins who sought the King's blood. Nameless is invited to meet with the King to tell the tale of his exploits, and from there begins a solemn epic, driven by the hero's travels and exploits and enriched by a touch of fantasy. I am hardly versed in Chinese film (or foreign film, for that matter), but this one has whetted my appetite for more.
Zhang's artistic vision is like no one else's, crafting inspired scenes and original action sequences that surpass the most skillful and high-minded of Hollywood's fare. Most obvious is, of course, his use of color for symbolic and thematic purposes, but I was also pleased with his manipulation of point of view and his reliance upon dialogue and character to balance out the action.
Of course, all of that is, to some, a mere frame for the action sequences, which do not disappoint. Not to betray any spoilers, but from the very beginning, Zhang thinks outside the box in terms of how to make each fight original and poetic. In my opinion, there was a little too much computer enhancement (especially in the lake scene), which detracted from the quality of the choreography. Still, overall, I thought the action was superb.
For as significant as the fights are, this is not just a great martial arts flick, but a great movie. That can only arise from the strength of the story and characters. The story is absorbing and masterful, and the characters are deep and superbly acted. The ideology and philosophy that surfaces throughout the movie and ultimately emerges as the story's thematic center may mesh well with Chinese communist doctrine, but I found it heartfelt and persuasive. The story blends action, character, and fantasy so well that it seems to have sprung, fully formed, from the mind of a genius.
As a final note, I have to give great praise to the sheer beauty of the movie. Every setting, every scene is a visual masterpiece. Clearly, Zhang directed this movie with the intent of crafting a masterpiece, and he succeeded with one of the most visually inspiring movies ever made.
From its art to its action to its acting, this is an epic of superlative quality, and I recommend it to everyone.
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
If you've seen the movie, be sure to read Christie's story. If you've read the story, still see this movie.
Witness for the Prosecution is, as IMDb voters cann attest, a great movie. A clever, character-driven courtroom drama, it deserved the Academy Award nominations that it received in 1958, and it has justly endured to the present day. Starring the terrific talents of Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, and particularly Marlene Dietrich, directed by Billy Wilder, and based on the superb short story by Agatha Christie, it is a combination has all of the very best ingredients, and delivers a nearly outstanding film.
The movie centers around Laughton's character, an aged, feisty, and very canny English barrister (lawyer) who is in poor health and headed toward retirement. The opening of the movie is entirely Laughton's show, as he portrays a curmudgeonly and endearing character. On his first day home from the hospital, he soon takes up the defense of Leonard Vole (Power) a man who is charged with murder and up against a barrage of circumstantial evidence. Power is convincing as the honest and somewhat naive defendant, in increasingly over his head. Soon, Dietrich makes her entrance as Vole's cool German femme fatal of a wife. After a few flashbacks to set up the story of the murder case, Laughton takes up Vole's case. What ensues is a well-written and well-directed courtroom drama, in which Laughton continues to shine, delivering a convincing performance peppered with humor. Soon, the story takes a series of dramatic twists, during which Power plays his part as the beleaguered defendant to the hilt and Dietrich uses the gifts that made her a legend. By the end, the audience has been treated to an excellent drama with sensational acting.
The result is a classic, but not an icon in the sense that Christie's short story, penned twenty years earlier, would become. While it may be the best-regarded of all Christie adaptations (Murder on the Orient Express a possible exception), the movie does not seem to have the stature it ought to have. At the end of the movie, I did not feel the same as when I read the story, and not just because I knew all along how it would turn out. With such visible talent on all fronts, I took a long look at what it was, and what was missing. The answer: Christie.
The movie is good in its own right, but from the beginning misses the crucial aspect that the original story has: the mystery. Agatha Christie is the master of suspense, and throughout the story, that suspense, that anxiousness to know what will happen next, the eagerness to know where this next twist will lead, and the shock that comes at the very end, were what the story was all about. The direction the movie went, the legal thriller, substituted drama for mystery, and while the movie only added to the story, changing very little of what Christie wrote, the movie lost the grip that only she could create. Christie treated the courtroom proceedings (the centerpiece of the movie) with brevity, focusing on the intrigue surrounding the case. Also, the Hollywood ending overdoes it a little bit, and deprives the most important plot twist of some of its its emotional impact.
That said, however, the movie is still a classic. Fortunately, the heart of the story was still very strong, with a unique plot and rich characters, which were taken advantage of by Wilder and the cast, respectively. And, as it turns out, the movie is a good complement to the story. To those who have only seen the movie, the story should be read to truly appreciate the missing value of the mystery. To those who have read the story, the movie nails the characters (particularly Dietrich's Mrs. Vole). All in all, I give this movie a 9 out of 10, and would gladly see it again.
The Incredibles (2004)
Hardly an inspired header, is it? However, there is not a more fitting summary of this movie's merits. Pixar and Disney have given us some of the greatest animated movies ever created, as the IMDb's own Top 250 can attest.
However, it is not entirely accurate to say that they have raised the bar with every production--from "Toy Story" through "Finding Nemo", since every movie is its own, unique masterpiece. "The Incredibles" is a brilliant movie, a shining example of everything it has attempted to be: children's movie, blockbuster, superhero adventure, animation milestone, voice-acting standard. From a moviegoer who patiently waits the long months between the release of quality movies, this is one worth bragging about, a truly exceptional film.
"The Incredibles" is about a world in which superheroes have been suppressed from public service after a wave of property-damage lawsuits and negative media coverage. The protagonists, husband and wife Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, are forced into a middle-class suburban life, where they and their children, Dash and Violet, languish in their pretentious lives. However, Mr. Incredible is soon contacted to don his costume again in secret, and soon the entire family is engaged in a battle against the sinister Syndrome, bent on revenge against all superheroes. The movie has plenty of excellent dialogue, clever humor, heartfelt emotion, and high-octane action. The general message of the movie (obligatory to every Disney production) is to never hesitate to be proud of your talents, and to not hesitate to be the best you can be.
I suppose this movie is, first and foremost, is a well-executed and entertaining kids' movie, fully in keeping with Disney's tradition of delighting children. Some say that the superhero theme, with so much violence and death, does not lend itself well to a movie for little kids. I say that superheroes have been a fundamental part of every generation since World War II, and that they have been a source of entertainment and role models in spite of, or perhaps in part because of, their serious aspects. Furthermore, this movie does an excellent job of keeping the violence non-threatening and generic; while there are cascades of explosions, there is no blood at all, and the few deaths are subtly implied. In fact, I would say that this movie takes the lightest tone throughout of all Pixar movies (there is nothing like the barracuda scene from "Nemo" in this one). Children will love the hilarious and heroic protagonists in this movie without being sacred by the antagonists, and at no point does the story lose their interest. The good and evil are clear and the moral is wonderfully delivered. As a children's movie, this is a definite classic.
While "The Incredibles" takes the cake for children's entertainment, "Finding Nemo" and "Shrek 2" have set box office records by being appealing to adult audiences. With explosions, colors, and an advertising blitz, this movie fits the characterization of blockbuster. Fortunately, it shares with "The Return of the King" and "Spider-Man 2" the distinction of being a brilliant job of screen writing and directing. The motivations of the characters as they exercise their powers are very real, and the James Bond-like plot takes its time on the establishment of backstory, character, and setting. This film is that rare wide-release that is driven by plot and character, not action sequences, yet has enough graphical and choreographical eye-candy (the latter must be a director's dream when done in CGI) to appease the most die-hard "Die Hard" fan. This is a movie with all the right ingredients for a blockbuster with staying power in the box office and in the years to come.
The past few years have been a blessing for the comatose superhero genre, with the production of Marvel Comics' "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" series, which have brought new credibility to the cape and cowl. "The Incredibles" is at once the superlative superhero adventure and an excellent spoof of the genre. The superheroes and villain, primarily Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Dash, Violet, and Syndrome, are at once familiar (translations of Captain America, Mr. Fantastic, the Flash, Invisible Girl, and Lex Luthor), and yet innovative, with their powers both pertinent to the story and also used in innovative ways. The action sequences are captivating, inspired, and expertly executed, and the conflict, though generic, seems entirely original in this interpretation. Yet, the movie makes hilarious digs at the staples of the genre, scoring big laughs off of the impracticality of capes and villains' tendency toward "monologuing". Faithful but funny, this is exactly what a true superhero fan wants to see.
As regards animation, I have never seen a movie with better graphics. While we have been impressed by the milestones of "Final Fantasy" and "Monsters Inc.", "The Incredibles" touches on the superlative. The streamline world within the movie is accurate right down to the reflections on the windows and the smoke from the explosions. The technology of the heroes and villains (the planes, the weapons, the doom robots) are inventive but as convincing as the latest in military technology. Though caricatured and stylized, the characters are genuine: Dash's movements are dead ringers for those of a little boy, Mr. Incredible's face expresses emotion as well as any actor's, and Violet's hair and Syndrome's cape are managed with astounding detail.
Finally, the casting and acting is superb, and not just the main characters--while Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter play both hero and parent flawlessly, and Jason Lee is a terrific villain, the minor characters, Wallace Shawn as Mr. Incredible's diminutive boss and director Brad Bird as costume designer Edna Mode (a lampoon of fashion icon Edith Head) make the movie complete. The dialogue, particularly amongst the family, is witty yet realistic, and the characters are no more outlandish than the characters you know in everyday life. Simply terrific acting, as it were.
That pretty much sums it up. "The Incredibles" is everything it wants to be, and everything that this viewer wants it to be.