With 2009 drawing to a close, there have been a lot of other fascinating Best of the Decade lists floating around. Here are some good ones:
The Onion A.V. Club has weighed in with their 50 Best Films of the Decade. Really excellent list. (I was thrilled to see films like The Prestige, Grizzly Man, and Capturing the Friedmans included. But yet another mention on one of these lists of Steven Spielberg’s atrocious A.I.: Artificial Intelligence?? Madness!) Also not to be missed: their list of the Best Bad Films of the Decade. Luckily, I only saw one film on that list: the positively dreadful The Happening.
Drew at Hitix recently posted his Best of the Decade list, as well as links to two other lists I hadn’t seen: The 50 Best Films of the Decade from theauteurs.com and Film School Rejects‘ list of the The Most Culturally Significant Films of the Last Decade.
Speaking of Hitfix, check out their list of the Ten Worst Oscar Winners of the Last Decade. Strong choices all around, and I DEFINITELY agree with their #2 and #1 selections!
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly has posted a truly eclectic Top Ten selection, while Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers has posted a Top Ten list that’s much more up my alley, with one notable exception.
Let’s close things out with this interesting list of the Most Unfairly Overlooked Films of the Decade. There’s a lot that I agree with on this list (my love for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang knows no earthly bounds, and I’m also pretty fond of Choke, The Wackness, Spartan, and Grindhouse) and a lot I disagree with (I don’t plan on seeing The Girl Next Door or City of Ember any time soon), but it’s definitely worth a look. Let the debates continue…
Have a Happy New Year, everybody!!… [continued]
Back in October, I posted Camp Ramah in New England’s Lost parody video (from summer 2009), and last week I posted our parody of The Office (from 2008). Now, I’ve got one last silly Camp Ramah video to share with you all. (For now, that is!)
Back in 2007 we kicked off our Staff Week at the start of the summer with an elaborate program based on the TV show, 24. Here’s the intro video:
This lead into a multi-element competition in which the counselors had to complete a variety of tasks in order to plan a trip for their campers. Of course, just as 24 seems to totally change track every 8-or-so episodes, in which whatever bad guy we thought was the real villain turns out to just be a minor player in a much larger scheme, after 30 minutes of our program we called all of the participants back to our CTU (“Camp Trip Unit”) headquarters and revealed that our counselors had a bigger problem to deal with:
That sent the counselors scurrying around camp, searching for life-size paper cut-outs of their “missing campers”. And then, just to be mean, we switched things up again only moments before the program was scheduled to end, and revealed the true nature of the threat facing our camp:
Pork Saturation Bomb? That’s quality humor, folks.… [continued]
Ever since Snatch back in 2000 I’ve been waiting for Guy Ritchie’s next great film. Finally, just squeaking in before the close of the decade, it has arrived: Sherlock Holmes.
As you’re all probably very well aware, Sherlock Holmes stars Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, and represents Mr. Ritchie’s reinvention of the Holmes mythos. Though perhaps reinvention is entirely the wrong word, as in many respects Ritchie & his collaborators have stripped away a lot of the baggage that the character has accumulated over the years (and over many, many, many film and TV depictions) and brought Holmes & co. a lot closer to their original literary origins in the prose of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I am most pleased to report that this new film is an absolute delight.
Let’s begin with the cast. Robert Downey Jr. is perfectly cast as Holmes. The intelligence, roguish arrogance, and manic energy that Mr. Downey Jr. has brought to his best roles is in full evidence here. His Holmes is a man just-on-the-edge of psychosis. He thinks so much faster than the ordinary man that, when his intellect is not engaged by a difficult case, he hits a wall of boredom that borders on desperation. Downey’s depiction brings this almost dangerous aspect of Holmes’ personality to the forefront — one never knows quite what this man is going to do next.
A lot of reviews have, I felt, needlessly spoiled the clever way in which Mr. Ritchie & his collaborators have brought to life Holmes’ faster-than-belief thought processes, so I won’t go into detail here. I’ll just say that it’s an engaging device that serves as an excellent storytelling tool. It also connects this version of Holmes to the world of the super-hero (I’m reminded of the visual method in which Sam Raimi illustrated Peter Parker’s faster-than-the-eye Spider-Sense in the first Spider-Man film) and this is not a complaint. With his incredible intellect, Holmes is a super-hero in many ways, and the way in which Ritchie & co. don’t shy away from these pop connections is part of what makes the film so relentlessly entertaining. But more on that in a minute.
Jude Law is also perfect as Watson. I’ve always respected Jude Law as an actor, but frankly it’s been quite a while since I was really taken by one of his performances. (I might have to go all the way to his standout role in the otherwise terrible A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.) Law’s Watson is no goofball, no bumbling idiot as the character has often been played. Rather, Law’s Watson is tough, intelligent, persistent, and incredibly loyal to his friend Holmes — a man … [continued]
Leo has a great mind for planning heists, and seeing all the angles of a job. But he also has a strict series of rules that he has created for himself. He feels those rules have kept him out of prison, though they have lead others to label him a coward. When he’s lured into a risky jewel heist involving the widow of one of his former partners, Leo finds that he’s about to break almost every one of his rules.
Tracy left the rough streets of his home city years ago for a life in the military. But he left his brother behind. Now, his brother is dead and Tracy has come home to find out why. But there are a lot of ghosts to be found on the streets of the city, and Tracy is about to discover that his dead father casts a long shadow.
Jacob is a cartoonist whose character, Frank Kafka, PI, is a no-nonsense tough guy. Jacob is a different type of man: a lonely, broken-down, chronic insomniac who hasn’t recovered from the death of his wife (and the ordeal that followed in which he was blamed for her death). But a chance encounter at a diner in the wee hours of one dreary morning are about to bring his not-quite-buried past rushing back for him.
Leo, Tracy, and Jacob are just a few of the compelling characters of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ amazing comic book series, Criminal (which I mentioned a few months ago, in one of my posts about great comics).
Before beginning to read their latest Criminal story, The Sinners, I decided to go back and re-read the series from the beginning. Doing-so only further solidified my belief that Criminal is one of the greatest comic book series being published today.
Criminal is a collection of hard-boiled noir tales. Some stories run for 4-5 issues, while some stories are just a single issue long. The protagonists shift from story to story, although there is a great deal of interconnectedness to be found (as characters and locations from one story frequently pop up in surprising ways in later tales).
Ed Brubaker spins tough, take-no-prisoners yarns. While Criminal has focused on characters of wildly different types and personalities (the “coward” Leo, the tough and brutal Tracy Lawless, the boxer Gnarly, the hurt and vengeful Danica, etc.), what these characters all have in common is that, as we watch, their lives take several turns for the worse. Criminal isn’t a comic book about super-heroes, and it isn’t an adventure where supposedly ordinary Joes act all super-heroic (what I like to call the Bruce-Willis-in-Die Hard syndrome). None of these characters are … [continued]
Back in October I posted a parody of Lost that we put together this past summer at Camp Ramah in New England. I mentioned that it had become something of a tradition that we’d kick off our Staff Week at the beginning of each summer with a silly video parodying various TV shows.
Back in summer 2008, we took on The Office. As with the Lost video, this short movie served as an introduction to our first big staff program. There are a number of Ramah “in-jokes” (one of our division heads, Ethan Witkovsky, voiced National Ramah Director Mitch Cohen, who of course stood in for Michael Scott’s perenially frustrated-on-the-phone supervisor David Wallace), but I thought y’all might get a kick out of this:
Next week I’ll post our 2007 video, which was our version of 24!… [continued]
Movies that Ethan & I totally agree on and that I was really glad to see on his list because they are (in some cases) sort of obscure and also (in all cases) super-awesome: Roger Dodger, Snatch, Capturing the Friedmans, High Fidelity, Man on Wire, The Squid and the Whale, The Matador, The Incredibles, State and Main, Vanilla Sky, Zodiac, The Royal Tenenbaums, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the relentlessly phenomenal Adaptation.
Movies that I can’t believe he rated as high as he did: O Brother Where Art Thou (one of my least favorite Coen Brothers films, despite its terrific soundtrack), The Aviator (a very solid movie but nowhere near that high on my list of favorite films), No Country For Old Men (as I have written about on this site before, the ending really hurts the film in my eyes), Ocean’s Eleven (I am NOT a fan), School of Rock (amusing, but not a film I am in any rush to see a second time), Amelie (ditto), American Psycho (a decent film with a great performance by Christian Bale, but definitely not a standout of the decade for me), and Match Point (being one of the better Woody Allen films of the last decade does not, in my mind, make it a good film. Go watch Crimes and Misdemeanors instead).
Movies on Ethan’s list that I haven’t seen: 24 Hour Party People, Shut Up and Sing (this has been on my to-watch list ever since it came out — it is on my Netflix queue, and I hope to get to see it soon), Monster (no interest), Chicago (no interest), Shattered Glass (minimal interest).
I thought about beginning to write a list of other great films from the past decade that Ethan left off his list, but that seems like an insurmountably great task. I’m currently working on all of my end-of-the-year Best of 2009 lists, and that’s difficult enough!
Instead, as a counterpoint to Ethan’s list, let me direct you to another terrific Best-of-the-Decade list: regular Aintitcoolnews contributor Mr. Beaks’ list of his 100 Favorite Films of the Last Decade. Here’s a link to numbers 100-76, 75-51, 50-26, and 25-1.
It’s a phenomenally well-written and comprehensive look back at the last decade of amazing films. He has some insane selections (Bring it On, Observe and Report, Miami Vice, Jackass: The Movie, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence) but here are just a few of the great movies that I was thrilled to see him mention: Gone Baby Gone, Ratatouille, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, … [continued]
Below is a contribution from guest blogger Ethan Kreitzer to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time.
Ethan Kreitzer took a broader view of my question, and submitted a list of his 5o favorite films of the last decade!
50. 24 Hour Party People
49. You Can Count on Me
47. Roger Dodger
45. School of Rock
44. Catch Me If You Can
43. Shut Up & Sing
42. Capturing the Friedmans
41. Shaun of the Dead
40. The Wrestler
39. The Dark Knight
38. High Fidelity
37. 21 Grams
35. Lost in Translation
33. Best in Show
32. Man on Wire
31. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
30. American Psycho
29. Wet Hot American Summer
28. Vicky Christina Barcelona
27. Gosford Park
25. The Squid and the Whale
24. Casino Royale
23. Matchstick Men
22. The Matador
21. The Incredibles
20. Ocean’s Eleven
19. State and Main
18. Vanilla Sky
17. Shattered Glass
16. There Will Be Blood
15. Punch-Drunk Love
12. Match Point
9. Million Dollar Baby
8. No Country For Old Men
7. The Royal Tennenbaums
6. Almost Famous
5. O Brother Where Art Thou
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. The Aviator
Ethan Kreitzer is a talented musician and songwriter. Formerly of the band Lincoln Conspiracy, he is currently studying how to actually make money in the music business. Ethan is the biggest fan of The Larry Sanders Show that I’ve ever met, which only solidifies my high estimation of his good taste.
The series so far:
I finally signed up for Netflix, and my first selection was quite a winner: the small Irish film Once.
This is an extraordinarily delightful film, exactly the kind of unique little movie with a voice all its own that I love to be surprised by. I’d read about the film when it got some acclaim on the festival circuit a few years back, and I remembered the endearing Oscar acceptance speech by it’s two lead actors/musicians. But I went into the film knowing almost nothing else about it, only to immediately find myself quite taken with the film as the story unfolded.
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova play the leads, whose names are never given. He’s a guitar player who plays his music on a street corner in Dublin when not working in his father’s vacuum cleaner repair shop. His music is brilliant, but he seems stuck in a rut and having trouble getting over a relationship that apparently ended poorly. She cleans houses and sells roses on the street, and lives in a small apartment with her mother and daughter. She’s married, but apparently on poor terms with her husband who lives elsewhere. It also turns out that she is an extraordinary musician herself, but she has little avenue for artistic expression. She hears Glen Hansard’s character perform on the street one day, and the two strike up a friendship that turns into a musical collaboration.
I am an avowed hater of “chick flicks,” but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy films with deep emotion. Quite the contrary: I absolutely love being swept away by the emotions of a film with heart. I just can’t stand films that are filled with manipulative schmaltz, or paint-by-numbers plots that lead to simplistic happy endings.
I can imagine someone reading my above description of the plot and thinking that they know for sure how the story of this man and woman will unfold, but trust me, Once is anything but a typical romantic film.
The film consistently avoids taking the usual narrative path. (With one tiny exception: The filmmakers did include a scene where a bored technician/producer dismisses their music but then comes around after hearing one song. After seeing John Michael Higgins absolutely eviscerate that exact type of cliche scene in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, I can never again watch that familiar scenario unfold without a laugh.) OK, but other than that I was extremely pleased to see the film avoid all the usual DRAMATIC with a capital “d” moments and predictable complications that one might expect to see in this type of film.
Which is not to say that the film is not extremely … [continued]
An indeterminate number of years in the future, mankind has ravaged the Earth and is forced to turn to alternative sources of energy. By far the best is the ore nicknamed “unobtanium” (talk about a macguffin) that has been discovered on the alien world called Pandora. Unfortunately, Pandora is home to a bunch of pesky natives, the Na’vi, who don’t take kindly to the shiploads of humans arriving on their planet with their giant bulldozers. So the company supervising the mining sub-contracts the Marines to protect their workers and, of necessary, destroy any belligerent Na’vi.
But some scientists, lead by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), would prefer to find a diplomatic solution to the escalating violence with the Na’vi. As such, they have constructed artificial Na’vi avatars — fully lifelike and functional Na’vi bodies that can be controlled by a human mind. The idea is that these Avatars will be able to assimilate into the Na’vi culture better than a human ever could — learning about them, and hopefully eventually being able to reach an understanding with them. Tom Sully was one of the highly-trained humans who had been preparing to control an Avatar, but when he is killed, the company must turn to his twin brother, Jake. (Since the Avatars are apparently created specifically to match the genetics of their individual human controller, only Jake can substitute for his brother.) Jake, a Marine who has lost the use of his legs, is excited by the chance to be useful again, and even more overwhelmed by the sensations of controlling a Na’vi body, through which he can at last walk (not to mention run, jump, etc.). Things get even better for Jake when the mutilated Colonel Quaritch, who supervises the Marines on Pandora, approaches Jake with an offer: if Jake will feed him all the tactical information he gains about the Na’vi during his Avatar’s time amongst them (which the Colonel can use to wipe the Na’vi out once and for all), the Colonel will see that the military pays for the expensive medical procedures necessary to restore Jake’s legs.
Of course, once Jake’s Avatar actually gets accepted into Na’vi society, things become a lot more complicated, morally, for Jake, and he finds himself caught between two societies that are rapidly heading for a collision.
Avatar brings with it an enormous amount of hype and expectation — almost more than any movie could possibly live up to. It’s the first narrative feature film from Director James Cameron since the extraordinary success of Titanic back in 1997. Mr. Cameron has directed some of the most influential sci-fi films ever made (and also some of the very best): Aliens, Terminator, T2, The … [continued]
Below is a contribution from guest blogger Jeremy Myerson to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time.
I was recently asked by Josh to be a guest contributor to MotionPicturesComics to help him out as he is surely getting no sleep as a new parent of twin girls! The assignment was to review my favorite film. Being the iconoclast that I am, I refused the task and changed it. To help Josh celebrate the wonder of children, and because Josh and I are long time friends (and co-sufferers) as Mets fans, I instead offer my review of my favorite kids’ baseball film!
There are countless websites and lists dedicated to the ‘Greatest Baseball Films,’ almost all of which exclude my entry for the top of the list: The Sandlot. This wonderful film accomplishes the true essence of baseball… Americana. The bulk of the film takes place in the 1960’s following the life of a runt kid (appropriately nicknamed ‘Smalls’) who moves into a new neighborhood and learns the game of baseball.
While the supporting group of local kids is somewhat reminiscent of The Bad News Bears, you’ll find much more heart and humanity in this motley crew. From the romantically desperate Squints, to Timmy and Tommy Timmons who repeat everything, to the wonderfully bullish and comical Ham Porter (who, of course, is the team’s catcher… think a young ‘Crash Davis’) The passion comes from the fictional future MLB player, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.
Baseball becomes the backdrop for the adventures of this group of neighborhood kids, as they invade the local community pool, explore the state fair and even try ‘dip’ like their Major League idols… and learn their lesson in a terrible and comical way. The adventures continue as their ‘Babe Ruth’ ball gets lost in the grouchy neighbor’s yard and is guarded by Hercules, the largest scariest film dog since Cujo.
For me, one of the finest moments in film history occurs when the kids play their only night game of the year on July 4th. The game is lit by the glow of the fireworks… Benny hits a ball up into the night and all the kids stop tracking the ball as they get lost in the glory of the fireworks display (set to Ray Charles’ ‘America the Beautiful’). Benny just keeps on running the bases… true baseball passion.
While this baseball movie has no scandals, no shattered lights and no ghosts in the cornfield it does have appeal to baseball fans of all ages. And it sure doesn’t hurt when you throw in a cameo by James Earl … [continued]
Below is a contribution from guest blogger Stephanie Edelglass to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time.
What unit of measurement should I use in picking my favorite movie of all time? Should I go by my grandfather’s comment after seeing There’s Something About Mary, “It must have been good because I don’t remember the last time I stayed up for an entire movie”? For me, that would eliminate almost every movie I began watching after 9pm. Or should I go by the mood I was in when I left a movie? By that caliber I’d choose It Could Happen to You because I left the theater with a feeling that life is good and sometimes people actually can be good and fair. I remember leaving with a smile on my face. What could be more important than the entertainment factor important when rating a movie?
I’ve decided to choose two favorite movies, one from my childhood and one from adulthood. Girls Just Want to Have Fun is my childhood pick. I recently subjected Josh to this movie and he doesn’t quite agree that this is a timeless classic. He may have even thought it was formulaic!! Nonetheless, it has sentimental value, as there was at least a two-year period when I chose it every time I went to the video store. I can still picture which shelf I could find it on each time I went into the little independent video store in Needham, MA.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun stars Sarah Jessica Parker as “Janie” and Helen Hunt as “Lynne”. If you look closely, you’ll notice Shannon Doherty as the little sister of the lead actor. Helen Hunt is the “bad girl” who leads Janie to follow her dream of becoming a dancer on Dance TV. Adventure ensues. I always wanted to have the guts to be Helen Hunt in this movie. She turns her school uniform into a cool outfit with just a little Velcro and exudes a confidence that, as a twelve year old, I only dreamed of having in my life! The eye candy who plays Janie’s dance partner, Jeff, is your classic “bad boy” and although he doesn’t have the gymnastics and dance training that Janie has, he holds his own throughout the movie. There is a classic scene where Janie and Jeff are practicing their dance moves in the park and you can tell that romance is in the air. The music is fabulous and the wardrobe is classic ’80s. I recommend this as a must-see for anyone who wants to watch a classic … [continued]
Director Jason Reitman continues his winning streak with his third film (after Thank You For Smoking and Juno), Up in the Air.
George Clooney (continuing to prove that he is a far better actor than you might think a fellow with his movie-star good looks and fame would need to be) plays Ryan Bingham, a man whose job is to fire employees at companies whose bosses don’t have the desire or the guts to do so themselves. Every day, Ryan flies to a different city, back-and-forth across the United States, to fire different people from a different company. It’s a job that most would probably find tremendously distasteful. But Ryan loves it. It’s not that he gets pleasure from firing people. (Actually, he’s quite skilled at helping newly-fired employees get over the shock and anger of being fired — and by someone they’ve never met, to boot — and he seems to enjoy the moments of human connection when he’s able to help one of those unfortunate souls find some shred of a silver lining to their situation.) It’s more that he loves the unattached, free-as-a-bird lifestyle that his constantly-traveling ways allow him.
Ryan relishes having no ties. His apartment (that he barely sees) is completely empty and unadorned. He isn’t married, doesn’t have any kids, and is distant from his family. While most Americans would probably side with me in hating the experience of flying, Ryan loves it. He relishes having frequent flyer cards and valued customer status at airlines, car-rental organizations, and hotels across the country that enable him to zip in and out (cutting ahead of the rest of us poor folks waiting in endless lines) with just the swipe of a gold card. He loves staying in hotels, he loves having a drink in airport VIP lounges, he loves flying. In Ryan’s mind, he is entirely free.
Ryan’s perfect-to-him life is shifted, though, by two developments. One is positive: at a hotel bar one evening, he strikes up a conversation with a beautiful woman who, it turns out, is just as much of a travel-junkie as he is. The woman is Alex, played by the luminous Vera Farmiga (Matt Damon’s girlfriend in The Departed), and she and Ryan seem to immediately realize that they have each found a special connection with the other. The other change is much more negative to Ryan: an ambitious young woman named Natalie (Anna Kendrick), newly hired by his company, has developed a system in which Ryan and his peers can fire people without every leaving their company headquarters. Instead of paying enormous sums to fly back and forth across the country, they could instead use today’s modern web-cam … [continued]
Below is a contribution from guest blogger Ethan Linden to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time.
This is the type of assignment I would normally reject. Not writing for Josh’s blog, which I am honored to do, despite his somewhat upsetting regard for the finale of Battlestar Galactica. As a matter of policy, I refuse to state my favorite movie. People in my life know I watch a lot of movies (or at least I did until I had, you know, children) and they consider me a bit of a movie buff, so often I am asked to give my top ten, or top five favorite movies. I always politely decline, because really, what the hell does that mean?
I can recite pretty much all of This is Spinal Tap (“like lukewarm water”) but, given the right company, it’s still hysterical. I laugh every time I see Airplane! (“what a pisser” is just funny) and no matter how often I see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I can’t help wishing I lived his life, even now. Are these my favorite movies? How about a movie like this summer’s sadly under-seen The Hurt Locker, which has stayed with me with incredible vividness? Or, in a similar vein, a film like The Deer Hunter which gets more painful, and more powerful, as I get older? And don’t even get me started on The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (or the The Godfather Part III for that matter, though the speech is decidedly different). The list goes on and on, and it shifts as I shift, which is, I suppose, part of the power of movies.
But I have come to see that my unwillingness to pick a favorite as a sort of moral cowardice; it is, at its base, a deep hesitation to be judged on the basis of my choice. If I am unwilling to declare myself for one movie over all others, than what am I? If I am not for my movie, who will be for me?
My favorite movie is Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Partly, this is a choice defined by nostalgia. The movie came out in 1988; I was eleven years old, and it was right in my wheelhouse. It is the first movie I remember going to see multiple times in the movie theaters, using my own money, dragging friends and family members, or homeless people, anyone really, who would join me. I loved Roger Rabbit, I thought it was brilliant and funny and poignant (though I would not have used that word) and … [continued]
Below is the third in a three-part contribution from guest blogger David Edelglass to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time. Click here for Part I and here for Part II.
My Favorite Movie From My Childhood: The Sandlot
This is another one of those movies that you can catch on ABC Family or some similar channel just about every month, and that’s A-OK with me.
Whenever I watch this movie, I find myself saying the same thing: “They don’t make kids movies like they used to.” It’s true. Most children’s movies these days are silly, over the top escapades that seem to think kids can’t appreciate a well written story or fully developed characters. The computer animated films have faired slightly better, but only Pixar has really been able to make movies that are funny, heartwarming, and family friendly (in this case I don’t just mean a movie that you can take your kids to, but one that will appeal to all audiences — something that even adults will find enjoyable).
The Sandlot is the story of nine kids during the summer of 1962 in L.A. Scott Smalls, a small, somewhat dorky kid, has just moved to the neighborhood with his mom and stepfather (Karen Allen and Denis Leary). He befriends a group of local kids who play baseball every day, and with the help of their de-facto leader, Benny Rodriguez, he slowly becomes one of the gang (and learns to play baseball to boot). The film is essentially the story of their summer, filled with swimming, giant dogs, James Earl Jones, and lots and lots of baseball.
The nine kids who make up the core of the movie are fantastic. Not only are the actors great, but the characters are all well developed and diverse. Each one has their own personality, and while some get more screen time than others, they all seem like real people, not vague character sketches.
Next time this film is on ABC Family, check it out. You’ll enjoy yourself, no matter how old you are.
Honorable Mention: The Last Starfighter
My Favorite Comedy:
This ones is tough. I spent a lot of time thinking about it in preparation for this post, and ultimately I decided that I just can’t decide. There are just too many great films out there, and comedies in particular seem to be very dependent on when you watch them and who you watch them with.
Some of those that have made me laugh the hardest upon first viewing are Planes Trains and Automobiles, The Hangover, Tropic Thunder, and Wedding Crashers, but movies … [continued]
Below is the second of a three-part contribution from guest blogger David Edelglass to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time. Click here for Part I.
My Favorite Action/Adventure Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark
This is kind of a no brainer. Raise your hand if you never dressed up as Indiana Jones for Halloween or imagined yourself swinging across large crevices on your whip and outrunning giant boulders.
It is impossible to watch this film without getting caught up in the adventure and wishing you were there. This was a perfect meeting of the minds between three of Hollywood’s best and brightest at the time: George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, and Steven Spielberg. Lucas and Kasdan were just coming off of The Empire Strikes Back (which, along with Raiders, would be the high point in both their careers, in my opinion), and Spielberg was really hitting his stride, having already completed Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (He would follow Raiders with ET). All three clearly were in love with the pulp adventures they had grown up enjoying, and it shows here. Indiana Jones is smart, cocky, handsome, but a bit rough around the edges, and Harrison Ford plays him to a T (though I am insanely curious to see what the movie would have been like if Tom Selleck had been free to take the role as originally intended). Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood is the perfect counterpart to Indy, and she is by far the best female lead of the entire series. John Rhys-Davies (Sallah) and Denholm Elliot (Marcus Brody) turn in fine supporting roles, as does Alfred Molina in a brief cameo in the opening scene (though I don’t know if you can really call it a cameo, as this was his first credited on-screen role).
Raiders is by far the strongest in the series, and hopefully if Spielberg and Lucas decide to dip back into the pool one more time, they’ll go back and watch this first movie to see what it was that made Raiders of the Lost Ark so special to begin with.
(Note that I did not refer to the movie as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lucas and Spielberg should be ashamed of themselves for that one)
Honorable Mention: The Goonies
The Movie That Absolutely Blew My Mind in the Theater: The Dark Knight
You all probably remember the hype the preceded this movie. The viral marketing campaign before its release was astounding. Then, with the death of Heath Ledger, this film became a must see. We geeks were foaming … [continued]
Below is the first of a three-part contribution from guest blogger David Edelglass to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time.
What is my favorite movie of all time? That is a question which many people have asked me over the years, and every time I give a different answer. Truthfully, I don’t really have one favorite movie. Partly this is because my tastes have changed over the years. The movies I liked when I was twelve aren’t necessarily the movies that I’m still interested in.
But honestly, I think the question of what is my one most favorite movie ever is impossible to answer. There are too many variables: How old I am or what mood I’m in at any given moment, plus the many different genres of movies. I mean how can I compare a movie that I saw on home video when I was twelve and happy to one I saw in the theaters when I was 18 and pissed off at the world (not that I necessarily was at that age, but you get where I’m going with this). On the one hand you’ve got the incredible storytelling, acting and general film construction on display in The Godfather, and on the other hand, there is the incredible hilariousness and craziness of Blazing Saddles. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, and I for one just can’t do it. So to best answer the question of my favorite movies of all time, I’ve decided on a few important categories and tried to pick my favorite movie for each. So here goes nothing.
My Favorite Serious Movie: The Hunt for Red October
Even though I just got finished saying how I couldn’t pick my one favorite movie, if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to do so, this would definitely be in consideration. Riveting story: check. Intense cat and mouse submarine chases that will keep you on the edge of your seat: check. Great character actors chewing the scenery together: check (pretty much every single actor in this movie is someone you would recognize even if you don’t know their name, including James Earl Jones and former senator Fred Thompson). This movie has it all.
Set during the end of the cold war, Alec Baldwin plays Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who gets in a bit over his head when he discovers that the USSR had just launched a new attack submarine capable of running almost completely silent. And who better to play the captain of said sub, the Red October, then Sean Connery, complete with awesome … [continued]
Below is a contribution from guest blogger Brian Raphael to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time.
Ah, the simple joy of knowing the answers to life’s daily questions, of listening to friends’ queries, always smug in the ability to answer anything and everything that any mere layman should happen to wonder about. A knowing smirk, a small shrug that assures the audience that such a question is quite irrelevant anyway – such is the life of Le Philosopher!
But of course! Our all-knowing Philosopher surely snickered at a request from his brother-in-law to answer the question “What is your favorite movie ever?” “Bah!” he probably thought, as the multitude of impossibilities, false assumptions and categorical mistakes the question posed swam through his head, “such a question eez impossible to answer!”
Perhaps it was due to the Philosopher’s overly generous nature, or warm feelings for his sister’s husband, that he chose to put pen to paper and attempt an answer. Ruminations on the meaning of life, the meaning of death and everything in between can be tough, so deciding upon his favorite movie ever should be quite simple he thought as he plotted the various methods of dazzling his sure-to-be-rapt readers.
Candle burning, ink well filled, and duty-worn fountain pen at the ready – it was not long before our hero realized that this might prove tougher than he had thought.
To the outside world – a humble accountant, toiling away in a Manhattan high-rise; ah, but from the inside! His brain was alight with neurons firing across synapses, wrinkles forming and growing through time as one thought led to another which led to yet another as he toyed with different perspectives, discarding each just as quickly for a multitude of reasons – attempting to find a path that led to fruitful ground.
Could it be that the answer to this riddle lay somewhere in the question itself? Terms slowly but surely met their respective definitions. Some were simple terms – movie: a motion picture that had been in general release, your: his, ever: in his lifetime – but ‘favorite’ caused a near short circuit in our humble philosopher’s brain.
“Favorite?!” he said to himself incredulously. “But zis term means nothing!”
As the night grew long and his candle burned low, he remained at his post, determined to fulfill his intellectual quest.
“Perhaps ‘favorite’ implies the movie that I have viewed the most times during my life” he wondered aloud as he fondly recalled beautiful afternoons living in the country as a child…when he and his good … [continued]
Below is a contribution from guest blogger Ed Gelb to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time. It is very hard to pick just one favorite movie of all time. There are so many movies that represent so many different genres. For me, the film’s topic having meaning to me, its entertainment, and its connection to my family all play prominent roles in my decision. Using those criteria, I came up with three finalists. They are: Casablanca, The Frisco Kid, and Hoosiers. Pretty eclectic, right? Below, I will explain why and reveal my final choice.
Casablanca is a romance situated in Vichy France during WWII. An all-star cast that purportedly thought they were filming a dud, it turned out to be an enormous hit. I first saw this movie with my parents and some of my six siblings on TV. There is no doubt that sharing that movie with my family enhanced it for me. Ingrid Bergman’s beauty is striking and definitely had an impact on the teenage-me. The ending had a nice twist and a great ending line. One of the things about Casablanca that I love is that any time I’m flipping through the channels and come across it I can watch it. It always entertains.
The Frisco Kid combines two Gelb family themes: Judaism and living out west. I am a rabbi and I grew up in Laramie, WY. This is a family favorite that is quoted by all of us regularly. Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford were perfectly cast. The scenes with the Amish and at a monastery are hilarious. The only down-side to the movie is the slower start. My brother, Jim, met Harrison Ford at an event a few years ago and told him that The Frisco Kid was our family’s favorite movie of his. Ford looked up and said, “really?” This is another movie I can watch virtually at any time. It always leaves me with a smile.
One day, I get a package in the mail from my parents. It is a “Monon Line” coffee mug. I’m perplexed. I call my parents to thank them. They say, “do you get it?” I say, “no, what?” “Monon Line, Hoosiers.” Still perplexed, my parents quote a rather obscure line from the movie from the disgruntled assistant coach that gets fired to Coach Dale. He says, “if you mess up this team I’ll strap your hide to a rail and send you up the Monon Line.” That netted me a mug. Hoosiers is one of two movies that all eight original Gelbs saw together in a … [continued]
Below is a contribution from guest blogger Ethan Katz to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time.
When I first saw Citizen Kane, I was only seven or eight years old, and I knew little more about the film than the fact that critics had repeatedly dubbed it “the greatest movie ever made,” and that it took its inspiration from the real life story of famed newspaper publisher and political figure William Randolph Hearst. For these reasons, I looked forward to the showing, but I soon found that much of the film’s brilliance and most of its references were lost on me. Yet twenty-some years and several more critical showings later, I have become deeply attached to the film and find that it continues to offer new insights, visually, cinematographically, historically, and even philosophically.
At the most basic level, Citizen Kane is a deeply American story, and in a sense a deeply tragic one. The parents, particularly the mother, of Charles Foster Kane, a talented and precocious young boy, decide that their inheritance of a gold mine offering tremendous wealth should cause them to send the boy to be raised by a Mr. Walter Thatcher, whose top hat and posh British accent immediately tell us that he is the very embodiment of East Coast elitism. After becoming master of his own wealth at age 25, Kane decides to enter the newspaper business. He soon builds the greatest newspaper empire on earth. During that time, however, he also evolves from a muckraking idealist into a publicity hound with boundless ambition. A love affair with Susan Alexander, a hapless “singer” (the mocking quotation marks are the film’s) destroys Kane’s first marriage and his political ambitions. Alexander, who becomes his second wife, leaves him when she grows weary of his self-centeredness and the utter isolation of their enormous and lavish castle, “Xanedu.” There, Kane dies, an isolated, sad man, imprisoned by his own wealth and his personal failings.
Part of what makes Citizen Kane such a powerful film is that it chooses to portray a famous man’s life not through a conventional narrative of his greatest deeds but through the eyes of those who knew him up close: his business associates, longtime friends, ex-lover, and others. Moreover, though made in 1941, it does so in what we now call “fractured time,” moving repeatedly between various phases of Kane’s life and personal relationships. Orson Welles, creator and star of the film, seems highly self-conscious of the cinematic and story-telling revolution that such methodology portends. In fact, at its outset, the film shows a quick, incomplete newsreel on … [continued]
Did today’s cartoon look familiar?
Well, that’s because a run of cartoons poking fun at Star Wars: Episode I were among the very first cartoons that I posted on this site back in mid-2008.
So what is a cartoon from 2008 doing on the site today?
Well, with the recent arrival of twins here in the Edelglass household, I needed a little bit of extra time to put together the next batch of new cartoons. Since the next movie that we’ll be poking fun at is none other than Star Wars: Episode II, I thought it would make sense to revisit those Episode I cartoons, rather than having NO cartoons at all up on the site for the next few weeks.
But it’s not just old business here at MotionPicturesComics.com. Because I can’t just leave well enough alone, I’ve gone back into most of those old Episode I cartoons to fix up various artistic errors that were bugging me, so these strips look a lot better, I think, than they did originally. Additionally, I’ve created about 8-10 BRAND NEW Episode I cartoons that will be interspersed with the old ones in the coming weeks. (There’s no shortage of stuff in Episode I to make fun of, after all!) So think of this run of cartoons as my SPECIAL EDITION of Star Wars: Episode I. (I promise, 10-year-old Greedo does not shoot first.)
Despite this slight lull in new comics, my regular schedule of blogs will continue unabated over the coming weeks. (There will actually be several weeks coming up with even MORE blogs than usual, four-to-five per week instead of my usual three!) I have a nice back-log of movie reviews to share with you all, and the series of guest-blogs (introduced yesterday) in which various authors will write about their very favorite movie of all time begins tomorrow.
I’ll see you there!… [continued]