Sunday, November 15, 2015

100-something Movies You Should See If You Like Movies: Q-S

Continuing a dynamic and somewhat subjective list of truly excellent movies for people who like all kinds of movies.  For a more thorough explanation of the methodology behind these recommendations, check out part 1 here.  Newer entries will be labeled u1, u2, u3... uX depending on when I add them, so use your internet word searcher and check back in several months to follow my ongoing chronicle of the best that Hollywood has to offer.  Links to other sections are appended at the bottom.

Quiz Show –

Dark and maddening look at game show ethics and reality television in general.  I really ought to watch it again because I haven’t seen it since I was a little, half-formed teen.  Oh well.

The Raid: Redemption –

I’d throw in The Raid 2 as well if it wasn’t so dang long and the storyline binding together the fight scenes wasn’t so dull.  The first Raid movie is about a police force infiltrating a tower full of mobsters and everyone wiping out everyone else in a nearly nonstop sequence of the most brutal martial arts battles captured to date.  There’s scarcely a plot to speak of but the movie’s undeniably entertaining and tense with no clear indicators of which characters are safe.  It’s also one of the only movies to date that I’ve seen utilize shaky camera effectively.  The one downside to viewing The Raid is that you’ll so spoil yourself you won’t be able to enjoy a multitude of other, not-as-awesome martial arts movies.  In the same way that playing Half-life 2 and Halo so early in my life has ruined my ability to truly relish any story-driven shooter game, The Raid: Redemption gutted any shot I may have had at liking a crappy film like 13 Assassins, a tonally inconsistent drama/comedy/action flick that’s weakly shot and edited and choreographed all around.

Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade –

I like the third one the most because of the added dynamic between Indy and Pa Jones, though the action of the first remains especially impressive more than thirty years later.  Somehow I managed to cheat my birth date and catch Raiders on the big screen, an unexpected journey well worth the taking.  I haven’t seen Temple of Doom in a long time, and I’m not that motivated to return to it.

Rain Man –

Let me let you in on a little secret.  K. Mart sucks.  You know what else sucks?  Tom Cruise.  That guy is such a douche in Rain Man, but who can blame him when his brother is the neediest, most high-maintenance person alive?  At least he’s not so awful towards the end.  Is there anything wrong with Dustin Hoffman, with Mr. Cruise, with Rain Man?  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

Rango –

Brought to life by Industrial Lights and Magic, Rango commands the most visually detailed, textural, and sometimes psychedelic animation ever in a fully CG film.  Plus it employs a bunch of lofty narrative terms like metaphor, epiphany, vacuum, and irony that make you feel doubleplussmart even though you know you’re watching Chinatown with Johnny Depp and a motley group of nondescript desert critters.  It’s kind of long and the average moviegoer won’t understand what the heck they should be laughing at, but for those who brought a permit for mental prospecting, this is one of animation’s greatest hidden goldmines.

Rec –

Found footage done right, it’s 70 minutes of relentlessly escalating, seamlessly captured insanity that reduced a room of 13-some college dudes to a pack of howling, jittery mutts, screaming at the television reporters not to do this or enter there or get a better shot of that.  Never has a horror movie so masterfully shown the disintegration of a seemingly controlled environment into total, hellish chaos.  Screw the English-language remake Quarantine.  Screw Rec 4 as well.  Screw Netflix for offering Rec 3, Rec 4, Quarantine 2, and a bunch of other lame, low-budget cash-ins but still not having Rec.  I’d expect nothing more.

Requiem for a Dream –

Yeah, it’s kind of a propaganda film made to tell you, “Don’t do drugs,” but it’s still the trippiest and most horrific propaganda film that one could ask from Darren Aronofsky.

Risky Business –

If it’s hard to make a movie that’s all about sex and doesn’t decline into shlock, imagine how hard it is to pull off a decent movie about a home-alone teen who calls a prostitute to lose his virginity, somehow turns into her pimp, and learns life lessons along the way.  And yet Paul Brickman managed to make just such a film, combining a superb cast, fitting synthy music, surprisingly artsy direction, and delightfully weird writing to create a more grown-up kind of Ferris Bueller.  I especially like how complex and full of contradictions Tom Cruise’s character is, on the one hand doing very imprudent, irresponsible, and immaturely rebellious things, on the other doing everything within his power to rectify the consequences of those things when they arise.  Is it just of him to open up a brothel in his parents’ house to pay for the damages to their car, circumventing the law and making easy money off of other people’s immediate impulses?  Can someone who sells her body for a living form a trusting, committed relationship with one of her clients?  Is there even such a thing as casual sex?  Risky Business raises all these ethical queries and more while throwing us for one narrative loop after another.

The Road Warrior –

The only thing I can knock Mad Max 2 for is its soundtrack, which is one of the most dated and generic 80s action soundtracks one could make.  What else can I say about The Road Warrior?  It’s got a crazy-haired Feral Kid with a boomerang in it.  Nothing else has ever had a Feral Kid with a boomerang before (except for Zelda, obviously).  ROAD WARRIOR!

Run Lola Run –

Run Lola Run doesn’t belong on a list of history’s greatest movies, as it never really moved my heart to any human sentiment, but seeing as this is a list of (hopefully diverse) movies for people who love all sorts of movies, I can recommend it with all my untouched heart.  Without indulging in gunplay, fistfights, car chases, explosions, showy stunt work, or any other typical action staples, this is simply an exemplary model of how an action movie ought to be constructed.  In Lola Rennt, the mix of low and high camera angles, the driving electronic score, and the energetic editing create the action, turning something as rudimentary as a red-haired girl running through a city into something truly gripping and awesome.  I would juxtapose this favorably with the latest Bond catastrophe Spectre, which has barrel-rolling helicopters, plane crashes, detonating watch bombs, kidnappings at gunpoint, collapsing buildings, no fewer than 4 international locations, and is an absolute bore to watch because of how blandly the director opted to shoot it.  There’s a bit of scattered German swearing, but otherwise Lola is a lot more family-appropriate action-wise than Bond.  It’s certainly more appropriate for your brain.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World –

“I’m going to be needing my own bed tonight.  It’s for sex... I may need it for a year.”  Edgar Wright’s a really pathetic director when he has to come up with his own unique film universe (see Shaun of the Dead), but damned if his style doesn’t lend itself well to comic book movies.  One of my friends confided that there’s something oddly attractive about the character of Ramona Flowers, and I couldn’t second that more highly.  She’s also aggravatingly confusing and hard to read, just like real women.  Bravo, Edgar Wright and crew, here to make me think about love and get sad and stuff.  1, 2, 3, 4…

The Shining –

Repeatedly beat up by its author for being so different from the source material, The Shining is a testament to the things a director can achieve when he doesn’t stay true to the book.  If The Shining – the movie had mirrored both the supernatural themes and all the inexplicable scares of The Shining – the book – e.g. the snakelike animate fire hose, the hedge animals, the increasingly perverted, animalistic partygoers –, it would satisfy neither Stephen King readers nor Stephen King viewers, but because Stanley Kubrick deviated so significantly from the book and set Jack Nicholson free to go completely mad as Torrance, people like me can read and watch The Shining with fresh eyes and enjoy both versions for the distinctly creepy images that each portrays.  I wouldn’t say that Shining is a particularly frightening movie because Kubrick’s style combined with elaborate production design is uncommonly whimsical and artsy, but that artsiness of craft is ultimately the primary reason any film lover should see it.  Dat steadicam doe.

Shrek –

That movie I watched 15 or so times as a kid without processing any of the inappropriate humor because I was that innocent.  Putting aside the plentiful raunchy puns, Shrek is the witty and emotional saga of true love, forgiveness, and unconditional friendship that Pixar wishes it could write.  More thoughts on it and Hellboy here, but have you ever heard a person say, “Hell no, I don’t like no Shrek?”  Shrek has got to be the most delicious movie on the whole damn planet.  One of a kind.

The Silence of the Lambs –

Not really a horror movie but still more disturbing than most of the ones I’ve seen.  Perhaps the most disturbing part is all the stupid sequels and spinoffs that came after it just because the movie vaguely sets itself up for such spinoffs.  Notwithstanding those, if I’m ever having an old friend for dinner, this’ll be the last film we discuss around the table.

Snowpiercer –

Wow. I was leaning towards hating this because most every critic had hyped it up as a pro-Occupy, Rah Rah Wealth Redistribution allegory, but the political undertones of Snowpiercer are so nuanced that one could read it as the total opposite.  Class warfare and social justice are definitely woven into Snowpiercer’s thematic fabric, but one of the film’s many implications is that upper and lower classes are unavoidable in any stable society, egalitarian and socialistic or free-market.  It’s also visually dazzling and immaculately directed, using something as simple as a character’s body positioning to convey more information than dialogue could relate (Tony Zhou’s Every Frame A Painting has a fascinating breakdown of Snowpiercer’s cinematic language).  Far and away one of the best science-fiction movies ever made.

Surfs Up –

There was a short spell in Hollywood starting around 2005 when everybody wanted to make a talking penguin and/or wild animals movie.  Surf’s Up is by far the most original, detailed, and well written of the bunch.  Everybody talks exactly the way you would expect a surfing penguin to talk, and the shaky camerawork (somehow emulated through motion capture) is similarly true to the documentary form.  But it’s really just a fun movie with a great soundtrack that’s all about learning to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life.  Radical.

Fast-travel to other parts:
M-P
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