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Favorite Films (in no particular order)
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
There Will Be Blood
Escape from New York (1981)
John Carpenter's Masterpiece
John Carpenter's film stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a rugged, one eyed man who is jettisoned into a thuggish New York City that's been taken over by a crime lord named the Duke (Issac Hayes) to rescue a president (Donald Pleasence) taken hostage. To say anymore would spoil the fun but certainly it is quite memorable.
The film uses the tropes of many classic westerns. Carpenter (himself a huge fan of westerns) turns a futuristic New York into a land brimming with grimy, sleazy men. The legendary Snake Plissken resembles the man with no name (who was based on Kurosawa's Yojimbo). Speaking one sentence at a time, Russell plays him with so much macho elegance, it's hard not to be absorbed when he's on screen.
Escape from New York is similar in ways to The Warriors, another cult classic, released two years earlier but it's the casting in Carpenters film (Hayes, Stanton, Van Cleef) that give it a certain flavor despite its minimal plot. Carpenter would direct a sequel 15 years later with Escape from L.A. which is mostly dumb and worth watching only for a couple cool sequences with Russell.
9/10. Escape from New York
5/10. Escape from L.A.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves" involves a union soldier named John Dunbar (Costner), his leg wounded and ravaged, consciously chooses to die on the confederate line than suffer amputation. He purposely rides his horse along the enemies sideline trying to get shot. He survives and is awarded for his act of "bravery." With his leg fully healed, he relocates to a western fort in total solitude. Other soldiers unaware of his exact posting, he is left to fend for himself.
As Dunbar rebuilds his new fort, he encounters nearby Sioux members. With no intentions of intimidation, Dunbar seeks out this indigenous tribe. He soon meets Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell), a white woman who was raised by this tribe. She mutilates herself while mourning for her lost husband. He returns her to the Sioux people and tries to communicate with them, after discovering the language barrier is too great Stands With A Fist translates between Dunbar and the Sioux. Thus beginning a relationship between white man and the Indians.
Dunbar adapts to the culture and learns the language while romancing Stands With A Fist. Eventually Dunbar is given his nickname of "Dances With Wolves." After he helps the tribe defend themselves from a rival Pawnee attack, he marries Stands With A Fist and is fully integrated into the Sioux.
Of course the tribe must relocate due to pressure of the white men, Dunbar of course says he will accompany them. When he returns to his fort, Dunbar is confronted by U.S army men and is arrested as a traitor. While he is transported, the Sioux track them down and kill the white soldiers and free Dunbar. Dunbar then makes the decision to leave the tribe with his new wife to prevent any further danger on the Sioux. The last shot of the film tells us that 13 years later, the last of the Sioux were subjugated to the American government.
This was Costner's first film as director and for a debut, it is excellent. As far as strengths, the film has a soft, leisurely pace, which combined with a gorgeous score from John Barry, create a very lush canvas. Visually, "Dances" is strong, with compositions that are simple yet ethereal. The tone is also quite delectable. Almost poetic, as if Costner invites us to yearn for a more simpler time in American history to enjoy his tale.
As far as it's flaws, the most obvious is probably the relationship between Dunbar and his wife (who is the "native" girl in the film). Although Costner handles their love scene very romantically, it's almost ridiculous the transfer of bodily fluids represents bringing two cultures together and all differences are virtually erased. This symbolism is rather stupid and has been used in several other films. More recently in James Cameron's "Avatar".
8/10. For other westerns, see "Unforgiven", "Rio Bravo", or Sergio Leone's filmography. For a more unconventional western, see "McCabe and Mrs. Miller".
I just wanna fight with everyone else
There he is. We look upon Mason's six year old, prepubescent face. Of course we know this is the beginning of a fictitious story, gradually this face will be shaped and matured, not from prosthetic makeup but from an element that is so often misused in cinema, time itself. Mason lays there looking up at the sky, his mind already taking shape. This is just one, mundane moment in this young kids life but then, that's just what Linklater's Boyhood is all about, life in every sense of the word. A series of moments in the vastness of time, no real beginning and no real ending.
Essentially an experimental work in a fictional narrative, Richard Linklater's Boyhood is rooted from his experiences as a father himself. By shooting the film periodically for twelve years, he wanted to capture a divorced mother and father raising their young son and daughter, while letting the unexpected events in each individuals life keep the film moving along. Many people criticize boyhood for lacking any real "story" or purpose but isn't this something that works in the movie's favor? You are watching Mason grow as if he is one of your own.
Linklater's maturation as a filmmaker lends the film much needed restraint, with a low-key, sophisticated aesthetic (a style he uses frequently), he shows much confidence in his process for such an ambitious film. Of course, modern audiences are likely to dismiss Boyhood. In an age of hyper-aesthetics and tent pole franchises, American cinema has primarily established itself as an action oriented media over the past few decades but Boyhood is a different breed. Linklater draws his influence from the quieter voices of classic European cinema (Bresson, Rohmer, Dreyer; etc), something that separates him from modern American directors. He handles his characters with a gentle touch and doesn't overuse a hint of sentimentality.
Perhaps the film also does work best if one is familiar with Linklater's other "walk and talk" films (the Sunset trilogy, Slacker), the style can be abrasive at first and almost irk you with the constant philosophical conversing but this is not just pretentious rambling. While viewing the films in tandem, the characters in these films seem to represent something much bigger than themselves.
10/10. With his latest achievement, Richard Linklater has perhaps transcended the boundaries of cinema. Today's filmmakers have a lot of catching up to do.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
No Blood, No Guts, No Glory
Paul Thomas Anderson began his career as a young filmmaker in the early 90's. He proceeded to make several energetic, ambitious movies which were guided by an upbeat soundtrack. Stylistically, he borrowed from Altman, Mamet and Scorsese but still, his films fit nicely with all of the other fun, stylized Hollywood films made in the 90's along the likes of Tarantino and Kevin Smith.
Flash forward to 2005, Anderson has matured quite a bit since his feature length debut in '96. He has more experience under his belt and he has become a father. He's taken a few years off from his last feature, starring Adam Sandler. At this point, Anderson is ready to make something he's never attempted. He jumps into uncharted waters and begins writing a film titled "There Will Be Blood."
It seems that Anderson was ready to up his game and strived for a picture that was more grand, more metaphysical, similar to his own heroes, Stanley Kubrick and Sidney Lumet. Of course, to make a project as sublime as Anderson had envisioned, he had to team up with some very talented people. The iconic Day Lewis in the lead, underrated Paul Dano in the supporting role, minor characters who look as if they've been pulled from a 1920's black and white photo, a great cinematographer, talented set designers, Jonny Greenwood and an interesting germ of an idea from a novel by Upton Sinclair. When all of these ingredients came together it culminated into one of the greatest films of the 2000's.
PTA is the kind of director who admits he isn't always sure what he's "looking for" and he hopes the thematic aspects will fall into place as he goes along. Though "Blood" is a very ambitious film, PTA handles it with confidence and possibly a willingness to break the mold of what kind of director critics had previously defined him as. Tarantino has recently tried to do the same after making three Los Angeles based films that helped put him on the map, problem is his latest films have become more "popcorn" movies that combine Quentin's favorite genres.
"There Will Be Blood" is a masterful film in nearly every facet. Everyone has acknowledged the acting is great. Daniel Day Lewis is riveting, even in the scenes he doesn't speak. The soundtrack is memorable, the cinematography is special and PTA gets the most out of authentic Texas locations used throughout. And then there's the ending, which feels like it was ghost-directed by the spirit of Kubrick himself. "Blood" seems to get better and better the more you watch it.
10/10. To make a film in the caliber of this, the planets have to line up. This involves of course the auteur, whose film should reflect their personal lives. Some great directors have made a "shift" into the greatest years of their filmography. It seems with this film that PTA has started his recent journey.
A Thief's Tale
Pickpocket involves a young man named Michel. He develops thievery as a hobby and soon meets another man who teaches him his craft.
Shortly after, Michel is arrested. While in jail, everything is put into perspective for him and he reflects on his past crimes.
After he is released, Michel's mother dies right before his eyes. His friend Jeanne tries to help Michel with his problems but like before, he reverts back to a life of pick pocketing.
Michel realizes that he is under suspicion and flees the country for two years. When he returns, his desire to pick pocket has him put in jail again. Jeanne visits him and they both share a loving moment for each other.
9/10. A simple plot that is masterfully directed. Pickpocket shows the point of view of a misunderstood person in a harsh, unforgiving world.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Alexander the Great
Undoubtedly one of the most controversial films of all time, Stanley Kubrick's portrayal of a corrupt and violent future has achieved much praise as a cult film but has been misunderstood by many.
The film begins with three brilliant scenes. We discover who the four men are, what their business is and who they stand for but as the film goes on, we learn that these four men don't have much of an agenda, they just find thrill in committing such horrible acts.
Alex, the main character and narrator, leads this gang he calls his "droogs" through an ordinary night. After raping an author's wife and ravaging their home, Alex retires to his comfortable home where we discover he does appreciate some things in life, such as fine art and animal life. As soon as he plays his favorite musician, we get a brief glimpse of how his mind operates and how naturally he feels the impulses of rape, death and violence.
The next day, we meet his mum and dad, both unusual characters yet they stand out for some reason. We learn a little more about Alex, he is an intelligent and well spoken young man, who has seemed to never get himself into any serious trouble. Then he gets into a disagreement with his droogs and gives them a harsh lesson to convince them who their true leader is.
The gang plans another fun night by going to a house owned by a feline lover. Alex gets himself into the house, alone and confronts the lady, who is strong and unwilling to be taken advantage of. A fight ensues with both Alex and the cat lady using a symbolic weapon, Alex a phallic statue and the cat lady the head of Beethoven. The cat lady ends up dead in a very memorable scene.
As soon as he leaves, the droogs turn on Alex and leave him for the police. This is where the film takes a turn. Alex begins to shift into a different person. We see him reading the bible, indicating he's always had a god-like persona that he wishes to change.
Alex agrees to undergo an experimental procedure to make him unable to do any wrong doing at all. Alex then gets an early release from prison and onto a new start.
Alex arrives home where he has seemingly been replaced by a lodger. This is where the attitude for Alex has taken a complete shift, the audience now feels they should sympathize for him when they once loved to hate him.
After a couple more visits from old friends, Alex unintentionally ends up facing another past victim, the author who's wife Alex brutally raped. Out of hospitality, Alex is fed and clothed but the author then recognizes him and prepares something to exploit his new weaknesses. The Beethoven that Alex used to lust for has been replaced with feelings of pain and sickness. Alex decides to "snuff it" out of this cruel and wicked world.
But of course it was unsuccessful, obviously as he had been narrating the film all along. We next find him in a hospital bed, he is recovering yet we are not sure if his weaknesses persist. The doctor conducts a test and we learn that some of his past philosophy has returned but how much? The very last scene reveals much more, Alex has most likely returned to his old self. But we are still left with many things to think about. Should we, ourselves be the only ones to make choices, even if we choose to be evil? This film has so many elements that make it memorable, including great characters, ironic use of music, great cinematography and a theme that will stand the test of time.
10/10. This films style is incredible but it is its content that people usually don't see. Several viewings are probably required.
Halloweentown High (2004)
A huge disappointment
This movie was horrible.I really liked the first two halloweentown movies and I was exited when another one was coming out but this had to be one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Everything about it was bad. The acting was horrible,the effects were horrible, the dialogue was horrible. It was just a huge waste on a good movie. Nobody would just accept monsters into the world so easily.The movie tries to hard for laughs and tries to be scary when it is definitely not.Unlike the other two movies they do not show halloweentown all they show is a courtroom and that is another bad thing about it. I would not recommend this movie to anyone because they should not waste an hour and a half of their lives to see this.