Monday, June 20, 2011

The 30-Day Movie Challenge, Part 5

After the first four parts, we now bring you the fifth and final installment.

24. Movie That Blew Your Mind -- Memento
I've seen a lot of movies that have engendered a "whoa" reaction, but only one generated a 45-minute "what did we just see?!?!" discussion in the stairwell of the old Westmount Mall Famous Players theatre between myself and my friend Dave. 'Memento' is a film that doesn't just require, but demands multiple viewings. It's one of the best mysteries ever made. I was so inspired by this movie that I wrote an essay in second-year English class using 'Memento' to illustrate the philosophies of John Locke (the real John Locke, not the LOST guy). It was arguably the best paper I ever wrote in university, and I received a well-earned....79?! Goddamn grading curve.

25. Your Favourite Disney Movie -- Mary Poppins
Logically I should go with one of the Pixar films here, but when I think 'Disney Movie,' I go back to my childhood. My first-ever movie in a theatre was, to the best of my recollection, 'Pinocchio' at the old Westmount Mews in London. I remember both the film and spilling my popcorn -- the former a wonder, the latter an unspeakable tragedy.

I'm not picking Pinocchio, however, but rather another Disney classic. I've always wondered why I'm an anglophile, and it just dawned on me that the reason may be because I watched 'Mary Poppins' roughly 200 times as a child and thus subconsciously developed a love for 1910 England. It also explains why whenever I try to use a British dialect, it inevitably devolves into some awful cockney stew a la Dick Van Dyke.

Two more points. 1. Mary Poppins also came very close to unseating Singin' In The Rain for the best musical title, given that all the songs in MP are pretty tight and the film lacks any look-at-your-watch sequences like the "Gotta Dance" number in Singin' In The Rain. 2. Guys, am I crazy, or is Julie Andrews a total fox in this movie? Did I just make things really weird by bringing this up while discussing a beloved childhood favourite? I should move on...though, if Mary and Bert were just platonic friends, I'll eat my hat.

(Honourable mention to Robin Hood, Alice In Wonderland, The Incredibles and Bedknobs & Broomsticks)

26. Favourite Movie Based On A Book/Comic -- To Kill A Mockingbird
I went with the 'book' option over the 'comic' option due to one indelible moment. Back in tenth grade English class, we were assigned to read TKAM and I just loved it. The feeling didn't seem to be mutual amongst most of my classmates, however, until we saw the film version in class. As you'd perhaps expect, this movie from 1962 didn't really draw much steam from a class of 15-year-olds until that legendary scene of Atticus Finch's final summation to the jury. Gregory Peck delivers one of the great monologues in film history, managing to convey justified, righteous rage at the sheer indignity of the case brought against his client Tom Robinson, yet still keeping Atticus from totally breaking out of his usual restrained manner. By the conclusion of this scene, this classroom full of mostly-bored teenagers broke out in applause. Now THAT was a scene. You have to believe that scene along cliched Peck the Oscar that year.

(If I'd gone with the comic book option, then yeah, Dark Knight.)

27. Best Action Movie -- Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
Another category with a lot of terrific candidates. When you think 'action movie,' perhaps you inherently think of a lesser film since the genre has been dulled by dozens of mediocre shoot-em-ups made by your Van Dammes, your Stallones and basically most of the Expendables. The Indiana Jones series, though, are totally action movies -- you just don't automatically think of them as such since to my generation, they're put up on a pedestal as THE INDIANA JONES MOVIES.

So let's go by process of elimination. Temple Of Doom, to be honest, has always dragged *just* a bit for me, so it's out. There was no fourth movie, so such a hypothetical film that absolutely positively didn't exist and tarnish the whole series surely doesn't qualify. It comes down to Raiders and Crusade, and man alive, this is a tough call. Indy retrieving the idol from the Peruvian jungle vs. the 'Young Indy' sequence and River Phoenix's incredible impression of Harrison Ford. The boat race through the Venice canals vs. the brawl in Marion's bar. The Cairo bazaar fight vs. the escape from the Nazi castle. The motorcycle chase scene vs. the incredible attack on the tank-led German convoy. "No ticket" vs. Indy just shooting the swordfighter. These are all brilliant sequences, but in the end, I have to give Crusade the slight edge simply because as the third picture in the series, the expectations were higher and Spielberg & co. had to work harder to wow the audience. Plus, Sean Connery was involved. Nuff said.

I love, love, love this movie. Just writing this entry makes me want to watch it right now.

(Honourable mention: Terminator 2, Kill Bill Volume 1, The Protector, The Rock)

28. Best Remake -- Ocean's Eleven
I felt the best way to decide this category was to stick to cases where I'd seen both the original and the remake. Thus, worthy nominees like The Departed and 3:10 To Yuma were eliminated from contention. Also struck from the record were 'reboots,' which are specifically different from remakes, so that took out Batman Begins.

So this left us with the compulsively rewatchable Ocean's Eleven. Soderbergh took the original's basic idea of "Vegas heist flick with an all-star cast" and scrubbed everything else, since the original is one of the dullest movies ever made. I caught it on cable a few years back thinking, "Oh, the original Ocean's 11, this should be cool." No, no, no. You'd think Sinatra and the Rat Pack could carry a film on sheer charisma alone, but my god was that film ever boring. And the original was severely lacking in pint-sized Chinese gymnasts.

29. Favourite Actor and Actress -- Bill Murray and Marion Cotillard
I was really into Ghostbusters as a child. Like, overpoweringly into Ghostbusters. This obsession stemmed not from the movie, but entirely from the 'Real Ghostbusters' cartoon show, arguably the best cartoon ever made and THE staple of my after-school viewing. With this obsession in my mind, you can imagine my shock when, while wandering through the old Oakridge Mall K-Mart with my mom, I paused in front of the audio-visual section to ogle a strangely familiar live-action movie playing on one of the TVs. You see, the K-Mart was advertising a wild new invention known as 'VHS tapes,' and (get this) you could actually rent or even BUY your favourite films and watch them in the comfort of your own home, and to demonstrate, they had a VHS movie set up.

And yeah, it was 'Ghostbusters.' My six-year-old self was standing there thinking "Hmm, there are four guys here, one of them is wearing glasses, another is a black guy....hey, that logo on their jumpsuits....the proton packs....HOLY SMOKES, THIS IS A LIVE-ACTION GHOSTBUSTERS MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!"

This is my long-winded way of saying that Bill Murray was probably the first actor I was consciously aware existed. 'Ghostbusters' is in no way an appropriate movie for your average six-year-old, but my parents (perhaps realizing they'd be fighting a losing battle) taped it during an airing on City TV, which I proceeded to just about wear out by watching roughly a zillion times. Murray stood out to me because, as I mentioned, my previous frame of reference were the cartoons. So while cartoon Ray, Egon and Winston were roughly akin to Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson's film counterparts, the Lorenzo Music-voiced Peter Venkman of the cartoons bore only a slight sarcastic resemblance to Bill Murray, since you *can't* duplicate Bill Murray. Even at a young age I recognized that this guy was playing Peter in a different, yet even more hilarious, manner.

And from that moment on, Bill Murray has been the man. I was almost surely the only 10-year-old in the world who saw 'Groundhog Day' in theatres on its opening night. I marveled at the ingenuity of the bank robbery in 'Quick Change,' a heist that would put the Ocean's Eleven guys to shame. I howled at Big Ern McCracken in 'Kingpin,' a role Murray played while ad-libbing almost all of his own dialogue. I laughed in shock as Murray made one of the best cameos ever in a film I'm not even going to name lest I spoil the surprise for you. His batting average is certainly not 100 percent, but it's fair to say that every movie is improved by having Bill Murray in the cast.

Now, some might point out the irony in picking Bill Murray as my favourite 'actor,' when his acting is usually limited to variations on the general Bill Murray persona. To this I say, fuck you. This man was in "Lost In Translation," a.k.a the single greatest one-man carry job of a film I've ever seen. He made a Sofia Coppola movie GOOD, folks. And, not only that, he carried Scarlett Johansson to a watchable performance. This is Herculean.

So, after picking a favourite actor who's been a favourite for most of my life, I'm going in a totally different direction to pick a favourite actress who I've only been aware of for the last few years. Marion Cotillard has quickly shot to the top of my list due to the simple fact that she is pretty much always the best part of any film in which she appears. She is the bright spot in mediocre films (Public Enemies, Nine) or the highlight of very good films (Midnight In Paris, Inception).

Perhaps the most incredible compliment I can pay Cotillard is that she's my favourite current actress....and I've never seen her greatest role. That's right, I've never seen "La Vie En Rose," which only won her the Oscar and just about every other acting award under the sun in 2007. I feel like this is akin to saying you're a huge fan of microwaved popcorn without knowing who Orville Redenbacher is, and yet, in a way, it's a good sign that Cotillard is a massive talent who isn't just a one-film wonder. She has *it*.

31. Top Five Movies Of All Time -- Pulp Fiction, A Fish Called Wanda, Back To The Future, Citizen Kane, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I've already covered a couple of these, so let's focus on the ones I haven't yet discussed. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is Charlie Kaufman's (to date) masterpiece of being full of ideas and his signature uniqueness while still being understandable to mainstream audiences. To that, I credit the great performances of Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey of having you sincerely give a shit about Clementine and Joel's relationship in the midst of all the sci-fi elements, off-beat plot structure and whipass visual effects.

"Back To The Future" is simply one of the most perfect movies ever made. It's funny, it's dramatic, it's perfectly cast, it has a great movie and it stands up as both a stand-alone film and as the first part of the trilogy. Also, if this movie doesn't happen, Chuck Berry's music career might never have gotten off the ground. Food for thought.

You know I'm a real film nerd when 'Citizen Kane' is legitimately part of my top-five list but I can watch this movie all day. Like Pulp Fiction, the movie is structured in such depth that even though I've seen both films a dozen times each, I'm always vaguely surprised in a "oh yeah, this happens" sense when I'm watching the story unfold yet again. If you're trying to figure out who was the most pound-for-pound talented guy in movie history was*, Orson Welles is a good place to start. Groundbreaking director, he co-wrote Kane's script and oh by the way, he also delivers one of the greatest performances ever. And Welles was TWENTY-SIX when he made 'Citizen Kane.' If that doesn't make you feel really bad about your life, nothing will....uh, provided you're not younger than 26. If you are younger, there's still time!

* = ok, to clarify, most talented guy of the SOUND film era. Chaplin and Keaton probably have Welles beat in the overall.

And this brings the 30-Day Film Challenge to an end! I hope you've enjoyed this cinematic trip down memory lane as much as I have. If you've been inspired to watch just one of these films (well, except Week-End) just based on my recommendation, I'm humbled. Wait, no, that's not right, what's the opposite of humbled? I'm MORE CONVINCED IN MY GOOD TASTE THAN EVER BEFORE!

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