Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The 30-Day Movie Challenge, Part 3

The list continues!

12. Favourite Director(s) -- Joel & Ethan Coen
There are a lot of strong contenders for this title, but with apologies to Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Akira Kurosawa, Billy Wilder, Charlie Chaplin, Quentin Tarantino (the runner-up), Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Pedro Almodovar, it's the Coens who take the prize.*

Why the Coens over all these other great filmmakers? The fact that they write their own material plays a role, but the title here is 'director,' so I'm not faulting the likes of Spielberg because usually works off others' scripts. I'm also not going strictly by the percentages since there are a few Coen films I don't care for (Blood Simple, Hudsucker Proxy) whereas I've enjoyed every film Tarantino or Nolan have ever made.

What clinches it for Joel and Ethan, however, is the sheer variety and creativity of their filmography. These are guys who can and have worked in virtually every genre, succeed by playing by the rules of that genre, yet also make films that are both distinctly 'Coen' and wholly original. My friend Jordan has a rule where he basically requires himself to watch a Coen brothers film twice before really properly reviewing it, since on your first viewing, there's just SO MUCH on the screen it takes time to digest. For instance, in watching "The Big Lebowski" again recently, it only just dawned on me that Donny's bowling shirts don't actually have his name on them. As if Donny's life wasn't sad enough.

To clear up a crediting issue, the Coens have always co-directed and co-produced their films, but the credit was split (Joel directing, Ethan producing) for years due to some kind of guild regulation, I believe. This is why I'm not singling out Joel Coen specifically, since it's widely acknowledged that the Coens work as a unit. The brothers have been properly credited as co-directors for their last several movies.

* = though if you ask me tomorrow, I might pick Tarantino, or Kurosawa, or some other filmmaker whose name I'm inexplicably forgetting at the moment, like Alfred Hitchcock or someone. Hey, wait, actually...

13. Favourite Cartoon Movie Character -- Buzz Lightyear
Say what you will about Tim Allen's one-note comedy act and alleged massive real-life ego, but the guy has very shrewdly parlayed that ego into two fantastic roles. First, you have his Shatner-esque character in the very underrated and awesome "Galaxy Quest," a must-see for any sci-fi geek, and then you have Buzz Lightyear. Buzz is so wonderfully deluded in the first Toy Story movie and while he eventually gets a hint that he's really a toy, that inherent blowhard nature never quite goes away in the other two films in the series. Between Allen and Tom Hanks, the voice casting could not have been better for Buzz and Woody, reason #676 why the Toy Story movies are awesome.

14. Favourite Film Villain -- Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles in "The Third Man")
Most of the villains on my short list were either real pieces of human garbage (John Huston's character in Chinatown, Captain Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth, Amon Goth from Schindler's List), force-of-nature sociopaths or unthinking entities (Biff Tannen, The T-1000, Big Ern McCracken, The Joker, Anton Chigurh, The Nothing from Neverending Story, Tajomaru from Rashomon) or creepily charismatic malevolent forces (Ursula, Colonel Hans Landa, Lotso Bear). This was arguably the hardest category of them all to pick, so I decided to pick the character that combined all three traits, namely Harry Lime.

Firstly, you have Lime stealing penicillin and selling it on the black market. Quite a dick move in and of itself, but Lime tops himself by diluting the medicine to keep his buyers coming back for more. As for being a sociopath, there's Lime's famous "would you hate it if one of those dots stopped moving?" speech to his friend Holly. And as for being charismatic, well, Harry Lime was played by Orson Welles. Nuff said. Any actor studying the craft, and specifically studying two-hander scenes, needs to watch the scene between Welles and Joseph Cotton on the gondola. Just tremendous stuff.

15. Favourite Guilty Pleasure Film -- Fever Pitch
Just so we're clear on the terminology, a "guilty pleasure" is a film that you openly realize is terrible but you love it anyway. It can't be a movie that you think is actually good, nor can be it be a film that is sort of an accepted guilty pleasure ('Roadhouse' or 'Big Trouble In Little China' are perfect examples of this). Nope, a guilty pleasure film has to be a movie that is straight-up bad, but you just can't stop yourself from throwing into the DVD player or watching whenever it's on TV. This is the kind of film that, if your significant other found it on your DVD shelf, they'd raise an eyebrow and ask "Seriously??" while their respect for you is lowered by about 10 percent.

With all this being said, yes, I did legitimately enjoy Fever Pitch. Not the Colin Firth original about soccer....the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore joint. Sigh. Is it tomorrow yet so I can talk about a different film?

16. Favourite Movie Soundtrack -- Help!
This is one of those "forehead slap" categories. I made this big list of film soundtracks (including the likes of American Graffiti, Once, South Park, Stop Making Sense and about a dozen other candidates) before reading my buddy Mario's concurrent 30-Day Challenge posts and seeing his entry of A Hard Day's Night. "Oh man, how did I forget about this BEATLES soundtracks?!" *forehead slap*

Now, I'm not actually going with A Hard Day's Night, but rather "Help!", which is arguably my favourite Beatles album. To be fair, I should note that "Help!" isn't a pure soundtrack, as only half the songs actually appeared in the movie and a couple others were left on the cutting-room floor. The rest of the songs were other tunes that the Beatles wrote around the same time --- you know, a few throw-aways like It's Only Love, I've Just Seen A Face and Yesterday. Taking a non-pure soundtrack album may be a bit against the spirit of this challenge, but screw it, I've Just Seen A Face is my favourite Beatles song. "Help!" it is.

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