Friday, October 30, 2015

100-something Movies You Should See If You Like Movies: I-L

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.

Ice Age –

The only one of the series in which characters exist for reasons other than traveling from point A to point B, Ice Age has everything you could ask not only of an animated movie but of a movie-movie generally: great music, engaging heroes, hilarity in its lighter moments, sincerity in its heavier ones, and an honest celebration of loyalty and friendship between extremely divergent personalities.

Inception –

As twisty and complex as its sci-fi narrative is, Inception isn’t one of Christopher Nolan’s more thematically or emotionally powerful films.  It’s just a cool story about dream thieves navigating interesting manifestations of the subconscious, and a really cool one at that.  This is a movie marked by its tremendous scale, scale of sets, of score, of cinematography.  It’s the only movie where a guy runs down the walls of a hotel hallway and engages a security guard in a fistfight that covers every surface of the rotating set.  Top that, Stanley Kubrick.

The Incredibles –

The pro-American, anti-sameness, quasi-Randian parable which Brad Bird protests he didn’t mean to make and which I’m very glad he did.

Inglourious Basterds –

Overlong review here.  It’s probably not quite as glourious as I remember it, but damned if it wasn’t a massively entertaining and unsettling imagining of the more covert battles waged in World War II.

Interstellar –

Is it about faith vs. humanism?  Individualism vs. utilitarianism?  Global warming alarmism or selfishness masquerading as social responsibility?  On a simpler note, is TARS the greatest robot personality since Wheatley?  And to think The Matt Damon has a higher Tomatometer score than this... there is no justice in the public’s appetite.

Jurassic Park –

The movie hits its cinematic peak pretty early on with the iconic T. Rex attack before mutating into assorted chases of varying effectiveness, the better ones involving viciously clever girls and the inferior ones involving, well, a clever girl.  This is still the only Crichton adaptation besides maybe Westworld that I’d consider essential viewing, and that’s a bloody shame because his novels read so much like movies in the first place.  How did Sphere get to be so bland and cheap, especially with such charismatic stars as Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Fishburne?  I digress.  Let’s get back to good movies.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 Chapters 3 and 5 –

Kill Bill is not the finest script that Quentin Tarantino has penned.  Chapter 4 could have been cut out entirely and the dialogue is incredibly cheesy, exulting in its comic book tone and dropping R-rated words just because Tarantino’s 9th-grader brain thought that they sounded cool.  The movie’s still absurdly entertaining, vibrant, and well made.  The anime flashback sequence of Chapter 3 ranks among the best uses of animation in film and Yuen Wo Ping’s fight choreography in the hyperviolent Chapter 5 borders on jawdropping.

King Kong (2005) –

Yeah, the brontosaur things don’t look that great, and yeah, it doesn’t make much sense why Jack Black would tell the New York theater crowd that “these chains… are made of chrome steel!”  The rest of the film is beautiful, sad, and unrelentingly intense.

Kingsman: The Secret Service –

Whatever message Kingsman’s trying to get across is scattered all across the ideological plane, and it suffers as a result.  On one hand it intermittently espouses very admirable ideas about what it means to be a gentleman, and it features a rare spy girl in a supporting role who isn’t sexualized just for the sake of gratifying male audiences, but then it closes with a very crass and out-of-the-blue sex joke that doesn’t at all reflect the character of the man we’ve come to know.  The main bad guy is a crazy Global Warming environmentalist who conspires to eliminate the human race for the future survival of earth, but in order to carry out this plan he must first do a trial run on a church of lesser bad guy Christians who rail against the “Jew-, nigger-, fag-lovers the devil will burn for all eternity”.  Elements like that are kind of dumb and degrade the movie as a whole.  Nonetheless, Kingsman has some of the coolest and most original scenes of murder and mayhem I’ve ever seen, and every deadly blow is rendered completely legible to the human eye with flawless camera work, effects, and cuts.  Afterwards I told the dudes I watched it with that, “I thought it was pretty incredible.”  “Say that again,” they said, unaccustomed to hearing such words from this Author’s mouth.  It’s pretty incredible.

Kung Fu Panda –

Somehow Wall-e is a better movie than this.  I know the Academy was trying to be all mystical and kung-fuey, but Wall-e is a Level 0 piece of storytelling.

Léon: The Professional –

I confess I’ve only seen the American cut of Léon, which allegedly washes out most of the more unsavory, controversial scenes between Jean Reno and 12-year-old Natalie Portman, who puts on the best show of her career.  Even the cleaned-up version masterfully ratchets up the tension all the way to its explosive, violent finale.

Lilo and Stitch –

One of the few Disney movies I can abide to watch over and over, Lilo and Stitch has quietly imprinted marks on tons of movies produced today, from the mute hero character who learns to speak through a civilizing friend, to aliens mispronouncing human words, to the incorporation of classic rock tracks as a defining feature of the characters’ lives (Guardians of the Galaxy, anyone?).  It’s also relatively mature for a Disney flick, dealing with parentless households, intervention of state social workers for the good of the child, broken families and how they heal, social isolation, and so on.  Feminazi culture critics like gushing over Frozen for its strong female characters, but that movie’s badness level is unusually high for a story that tries and fails to give an interesting, nuanced picture of sisterhood.  Lilo and Stitch, on the other hand, is funny, heartfelt, and visually fetching enough that I could confidently show it to anyone male or female over the age of eight and know that friend will get a kick out of it.

Little Shop of Horrors –

The perfect melding of demented, Tim Burton-esque characters, catchy melodies, romance, and visual magic.  Suddenly Seymour…

The Lord of the Rings trilogy –

While certainly a sweeping and impressive middle chapter, The Two Towers still seemed to me like a bunch of fighting and time-filler that ended up sticking the final one with seven climaxes, but the other two are fantastic blends of matchless direction and meaningful fantasy.  And no, I haven’t seen the extended, 4-hour editions.  Are they really worth a full day of my life?  Tolkien nerds, speak up.  Yourguyses opinion means a lot to me.

The Lovely Bones –

The Lovely Bones is the most critically maligned movie Peter Jackson has ever made.  It was one of the most critically maligned movies of 2009, period.  It may also be the most visually sumptuous and haunting picture he’s directed.

Fast-travel to other parts:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stuff I Learned From Watching the Democratic-Socialist "Debate"

This is a list of quotes and buzzwords from the old CNN Democrat mutual-agreement-session that don’t relate to the national debt and fiscal solvency, i.e. basically all of them.  The reason it took us so long to upload this is because our sanity had to divide the program into chapters so as to avoid total mental collapse.


Comprehensive gun safety legislation
Common sense gun legislation
Common sense gun safety measures
Foreign policy is about “holding accountable” tyrants.
Scientific community
Habitable
Institutional racism
Oligarchy and democracy
People at the dinner table
Communities/people of color
Undervalue lives of black lives
Creating millions of jobs
Good jobs
Living wage
Casino speculative mega-bank gambling
Too big to fail (speaking exclusively of banks)
Climate change
Millionaire and billionaire friends
Donald Trump and his billionaire friends
Wall Street
Tax cuts that favor the wealthy
Less than 1%
I want them to get their costs down...
Enhance benefits
People who need it the most
Comprehensive immigration reform
Pathway towards citizenship
Undocumented immigrants
Undocumented children
We’re in this together.
Civil liberties
We’ve got to stop these wars.
Corporate America
Themiddleclass
Political revolution
Handful of billionaires
Voter turnout
Raise public consciousness
Come togetha in a way that does not exist now
Big money interest
The kind of change we need
Solar and wind
One of the most sustainable cities
Citing Pope Francis, i.e. religion, to justify state policy on climate change
Commitments to fight climate change
Rest of the advanced world
Not spending governmental money on Planned Parenthood is big government.
International embarrassment to not mandate paid leave.
CEOs on Wall Street walk free while marijuana smokers go to jail.
Totally obstructionist
Millions of young people will have to demand free tuition and make Republicans an offer they can’t refuse.
The coal lobby
The pharmaceutical industry
The soldier who threw a grenade at me
I’ve served at many levels.
I did it.
Working through complicated issues to find solutions
Cavalcade of financial irregularities
Denigrate women
Racist comments about immigrants
Standing on the threshold of new American progress
Connected, generous, compassionate place
Millions of people standing up to the billionaire class
Super PACs
Old-fashioned way
Averaging $30 a piece

Saturday, October 24, 2015

100-something Movies You Should See If You Like Movies: E-H

Continued from part 1, which also describes the methodology behind this list in case the title doesn’t make it clear.  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.

Edge of Tomorrow –

The helicopter scene alone merits a spot on this list.  And Emily Blunt doing pushups.  Is there something on her face?  Too bad Emily Blunt had to go and make such a dumbkopf of herself.

Edward Scissorhands –

Old but complete review here.  A very sad yet very wonderful movie.

Empire of the Sun –

Spielberg’s historical magnum opus, much better than the also strong Saving Private Ryan.

Enemy –

Jake Gyllenhaal plays two physically identical characters, or two versions of the same character, depending on how you try to make sense of the story.  I don’t know why people think this is slow-paced. Of all the nonsensical, symbolism-fueled arthouse pictures I’ve seen, this is probably the most riveting.  I’m not really convinced that it’s a split personality movie.  I really want it NOT to be another split personality movie.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 

A very imaginative and experimental movie about love, memories, and how our past defines our present.  Charlie Kaufman is kind of an annoying artsy-fartsy hipster (see the movie he wrote about himself writing the very movie that you’re watching), but bravo to him for pulling this script off.

Ex Machina –

Unpredictable, thought-provoking, and extraordinarily beautiful robot movie that exploits modern liberal sensibilities on the rights of the nonhuman and shockingly rejects those sensibilities in the final act.  It doesn’t wield quite as much staying power on second viewing, but then what movie does that packs so many astonishing, last-minute twists?

Exit through the Gift Shop –

The less that’s said about Mr. Brainwash, Banksy, and the other street artist icons mythologized by Exit Through the Gift Shop, the better, because their documentary is a bit of a trip.  The story told herein seems too outrageous to be true, and that’s kind of the point.  People have debated how much of Brainwash’s journey is real and how much is a carefully constructed fabrication of director Banksy, whoever he is, but the crucial moment in the drama – people lining up in droves to fork over massive sums of money for what’s essentially a worthless piece of hodgepodge, mishmashed junk – is completely factual.  Exit Through the Gift Shop is in essence a movie about marketing and all the trickery involved, so why do so many people care if the movie itself is an engineered work of entertaining trickery?  Maybe art is just a joke, but doesn’t the art of deceiving stupid people lie at the core of all American politics and commerce?

Fantastic Mr. Fox –

The stop-motion Wes Anderson comedy with talking animals we never knew we wanted.  What the cuss kind of movies list would this be without it?  Really old review from the dark days of The Author’s Files featured here.  Read it to see how far we’ve come.  All the sentences are just like this one and the one after it.  They start with a noun, follow with a verb of being, and end with an adjective describing the noun.  That kind of writing just isn’t very interesting.  Even for a wild animal.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High & Election 

These two go rather hand in hand, both aiming to expose a darker and more worldly aspect of high school that’s often glossed over in the genre, and not in a crass, extravagant way a la 21 Jump Street but with a sobering maturity and sincere awareness of real social faults.  Teenagers in both these films are accurately and/or idealistically portrayed as horny, malicious, power-hungry, jealous, injudicious, petty, rabidly sexual beings.  Fast Times is particularly renowned for a poolside fantasy experienced by Judge Reinhold, Election deals more frankly with the reality of pervy high-school teachers than perhaps anything else, and young Reese Witherspoon is anything but America’s sweetheart in the latter movie.  I prefer the satiric Election for all the political observations it milks from student government proceedings, though both are strong pictures of young adults’ life in their respective periods.  Fast Times originally left a sour taste in my mouth because of how lightly it ended up treating abortion, but then I mulled it over for a longer time and ceded that the movie’s not really concerned with judging any of the characters, just with honestly depicting moral dilemmas that many people really face in high school.  Both these movies do this very effectively.

Fight Club 

Superbly entertaining to watch, with captivating, moody cinematography, snappy writing, and great performances, while also being thematically perplexing enough that people fifteen years later can still argue about what the heck it really means.  Regardless, it’s mostly great for being so slick and absorbing.  See the outro scene that made a Pixies “fan” of everybody for the prime example of how to end a movie with a bang, like literally.  I am Jack’s remnants of a once brilliant mind blown to smithereens.

The Fly 

For a special effects-driven movie about a scientist turning into a human fly, this was surprisingly emotional and effective at making me care about Jeff Goldblum’s tragic metamorphosis.  No one questions the enduring magnificence of its revolting makeup and prop design, but it also packs one of the saddest endings ever put to screen.

Full Metal Jacket 

Me love this movie long time.

Fury 

The most gripping, impressive, and uncomfortable scenes in Fury don’t even involve tanks, but the psychological tug of war between Brad Pitt’s superior commander and Private Logan Lerman, particularly when they take a break from fighting to uncomfortably crash in on the residence of two German women. Very well executed and morally inquisitive war film.

Gladiator 

Russell Crowe has so many good lines within this film, it’s almost tragic that he’s just a made-up movie character.  And who could forget what a sickly, horrifying creepazoid Joaquin Phoenix made as Commodus?

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly 

I would say they just don’t make them like they used to, but then I’d fall into the trap of romanticizing the movies of the past as exponentially, universally superior to the movies of the present, which they most definitely aren’t.  Unless the older movie is directed by Sergio Leone and scored by Ennio Morricone.

The Graduate 

Mrs. Robinson is the most attractive of all Dustin Hoffman’s parent’s friends, but he thinks she’s trying to seduce him.  A very messy, nontraditional story of free spirits falling in love and running away ensues, resulting in a fabulous fusion of everything that makes a movie stand out as a movie.

Hellboy 

Really old, unexhaustive review here paired with commentary on Shrek.  It’s funny, stylish, emotional, occasionally beautiful, and laconically sums up the philosophy by which any man should live: “I can promise you two things.  One, I’ll always look this good.  Two, I’ll never give up on you.”  Hellboy 2 is also visually creative and entertaining fan service but can’t compete with the originality of the first, which I just realized is not an origin story.

Her 

Probably the most intensely sensual film I’ve yet seen, it portrays a man’s longing for intimacy without any of its trials, disappointments, or uncertainties.  It may be early to make this call, but ten years from now, Her will also be recognized as one of the most prescient cinematic visions of the future, taking a slightly exaggerated version of our present, cell phone-addicted society and forming an all too probable conclusion about the corrosive effect technology will continue to have on human relationships.  I almost cried.

Hero (without kung fu) –

A very interesting, little remembered film starring Dustin Hoffman, it’s basically about what makes a person good or bad, whether it’s a pattern of behavior that we sustain throughout our day-to-day life or the momentary choices we make in times of extreme tribulation.

Hero (with kung fu) –

I don’t know if I’ve seen a movie that exudes more epicness than Hero. Every shot is designed for maximum visual sensation, and not in the aggressive, Rick Berman fashion of shoving unnecessary crap into the frame for the sake of “denseness”, but in a gentle and caressing manner that seduces your eyes with the splendor of the colors, the hugeness of the settings, and the fantastical beauty of the cinematography. Aside from being a landmark work of photographic art, it’s also a great film to show any aspiring creative writers, weaving a nonlinear, not always objective story through multiple layers of flashbacks and eschewing a traditionally happy ending for a much more somber resolution open to individual interpretation.

Holes –

Let me tell you girl scouts a story.  Once upon a time, when I was just a little kid who couldn’t watch most PG-13 and R movies, there was a magical movie called Holes, where it (almost) never rained, where there was a surprising amount of killing and starving and danger for a Disney film, where Shia Labeouf was just a cool teenager.  Louis Sachar’s script simmered with memorable one-liners and characters.  The end.

Hoodwinked –

If you think that Pixar movies are the pinnacle of creative writing in the animation medium, you’ll probably think Hoodwinked feels a lot like hot coffee, all over your neck, very, very painful.  If you like layered storytelling that draws on multiple points of view, cleverly contorts existing folklore, alludes to other cultural touchstones, and tells a musical fable of going over the woods and through the river, then here’s a story I hope you’ll like.

How To Train Your Dragon –

I didn’t really get the hype about this the first time I watched it in the theater with stupid 3D glasses.  Then I grew up a little bit, and How To Train Your Dragon grew with me.  That may be the dumbest, most falsely sentimental sentence I’ve written in praise of a film.

Fast-travel to other parts:
A-D
I-L
M-P
Q-S
T-Z

Friday, October 16, 2015

100-something Movies You Should See If You Like Movies: A-D

Whilst finalizing a massive hit piece on the respected critical aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes (the same one that ranks all three Toy Story movies, Finding Nemo, E.T., Boyhood!, and the Wizard of Oz among its “Top 100 Movies of All Time”), it occurred to me that writing such an exposé would inevitably spark rebuttals of, “OK, Mr. Josephos, you can fling your dirt at movies other people love, but what movies do you love yourself?  Do you even like movies?”

Seeing as how every other online critic seems to have a numerical countdown of his own all-time favorites, there’s a case to make for The Author’s Files publishing its own.  Not a numerical one, of course, on one hand because rearranging all the entries to accommodate a new one would be a real pain in the arse, on the other because all the films that would make it onto such a list deserve better than to be pitted against each other in a competitive, mostly subjective ranking system.  There’s simply no definitive scientific way to claim that Memento is a ‘better’ movie than Interstellar by 0.24 points out of five.  I may draw slightly more entertainment or intellectual stimulation from one than from the other, but both represent the pinnacle of storytelling in their respective genres, so it’s kind of frivolous and stupid to say that one is factually superior to the other.

Video games and television are constrained enough in quality that I could likely make a top-fifteen list for each and systematically rank all the contenders with confidence, but the worlds of literature and film are so expansive in style and theme that it’s utterly vain to give them the same treatment.  So here’s part one of my alphabetically arranged rundown of movies that uncommonly affected, stirred, or motivated me to think. Think of it as an inconclusive list of movies for any adult who loves all sorts of movies.  The criterion for inclusion is basically anything that left me thinking, “Whoa,” or, “That was really good.”  Some of these I had to watch twice before I got them.

Well-regarded films that impressed me in some aspects but didn’t quite make the cut or just bewildered me include Taxi Driver, 2001, Akira, Looper, Cloverfield, Road to Perdition, Signs and The Sixth Sense, The Lion King, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Gran Torino, It Follows, Gravity, The Guest, The Fifth Element, Westworld, the 2009 Star Trek, Star Wars Episode Whatever, pretty much every John Hughes movie, The Skin I Live In, Juno, The Thin Red Line, Short Term 12, Rabbit Proof Fence, Blue Ruin, Pan’s Labyrinth, Avatar, The Winter Soldier, The Prestige, I, Robot, Raising Arizona, O Brother, Fargo, and Burn After Reading.  Who knows if they’ll stay off the list, though, as it’s entirely possible I’ll come back to them as a more mature and knowing person and discover truths formerly concealed to me as a floundering, socially isolated Beatissima undergrad who vainly seeks out truths in entertainment where there’s only falsity and propaganda.

And here, we, go.

About Time 

A surprisingly clever, funny, and unconventional time travel romance about accepting the disappointments and appreciating the blessings life deals you on a daily basis.  British guy from Ex Machina is charmingly awkward and incompetent at using his powers to procure the attention of beautiful women.  Rachel McAdams is ridiculously cute, like serious wifey material, omg.  Great, great movie to show to that lady friend you don’t have.

The Abyss 

Up until the tacked-on anti-war conclusion that vaporizes all the mystery and suspense that surrounded the aliens’ existence (see The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fifth Element, and the scene in T2 where John Connor conjectures, “We’re not gonna make it, are we?”), this was probably my favorite film of James Cameron, a gripping, strange, and incredibly produced undersea thriller that only feels more astounding when one reads about the drama that went on behind the production.  Superb CG alien design and practical effects, a marriage in its final throes, mutiny and madness in a contained environment, submarine warfare – all this could easily have turned into an overstuffed demo reel grasping at every technical marvel and plot point Cameron could think of, but it’s all so perfectly executed.  It’s just too bad I can’t ignore the final ten minutes.

Aliens and Alien –

I prefer Aliens for repeat viewing because it’s so damn fun, though both work on their own level.  Almost every scene of the former is instantly memorable and quotable.  I’ll link the original reviews here and here, but it won’t make any difference.

Amadeus –

Alternately funny, disheartening, triumphant, and somber, it’s a gloriously inaccurate and a-historical meditation on envy like no other.

American Psycho –

Metrosexual, elitist music snob Christian Bale says the darnedest things when he isn’t murdering people in his head.  The whole film has a clear, crisp sound and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the scenes a big boost!

Apocalypse Now –

Apocalypse Now is a long trek into misery and darkness, one of which a fellow Beatissima student commented something like, “Well, that movie really makes you feel bad about humanity.”  Joseph Conrad couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation of Heart of Darkness.

Apocalypto –

An unrelenting and enthralling story about noble savages raping, enslaving, and sacrificing each other before the evil white men came to their shores and ruined their idyllic, humble society.  This is action moviemaking condensed to its most primal and powerful form, and I couldn’t ask for a more visceral rebuttal to all the penitent, holier-than-other-historians BS I’ve had to amuse in Alan Taylor’s stupid American Colonies book.

A Beautiful Mind –

The movie that almost every one of my freaking college professors likes to freely talk about as if the whole class already knows the twist.  Fortunately I beat them to it.  Do yourself a favor and watch it as the Author did, not reading anything beforehand about the movie or the person Russell Crowe is playing in the movie. If you do, you’re making a conscious decision to ruin the whole first half of the film, and the very fact you can ruin it implies it must have been pretty special to start.

A Knight’s Tale –

Straight outta Guilderland, this is the movie that redefined our cultural perception of Chaucer as well as the editorial policy of these Files’ invectives.  “I will eviscerate you in fiction.  Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day.  You will be naked for eternity.”

A Simple Plan –

… isn’t nearly as simple as the planners first anticipated.  The most terrible consequence of sin uncorrected is living with the knowledge that one is a sinner.

The Bad News Bears –

I don’t feel all that bad about the scarcity of sports-related movies on this list, but I’m very grateful for the existence of The Bad News Bears.  Evaluated by today’s standards in cinema, the actions demanded of the Little Leaguers are shockingly offensive and even archaic, as they smoke, joke about breasts, butts, and sex, and utter pretty much every gay and racial slur in the book.  Maybe I’m a little sick for loving that someone had the bravado to cram so much bigotry and filth into a movie starring children, but nonetheless I love it.  I also like that it doesn’t have the typical ending where the underdogs are getting whipped until the second half, make a comeback, tie it up, and triumph by a hairsplitting goal/throw/hit.  But I mostly like it because it hails from an era when people didn’t get so worked up over something being Racist.  In 2005, Richard Linklater directed and/or castrated a lame and gratuitous remake for a generation of the perpetually offended.  I could proffer 50 unique reasons why the Linklater version is a cheap and soulless imitation of the original, but there are probably ten people in this world who care enough about The Bad News Bears to read them, so for now I’ll pass.

Beasts of the Southern Wild –

A raw and eye-opening film about extremely “poor” bayou-dwelling people who make do with very little but need very little to lead a whole, contented life.  When I heard the little girl in the movie got an Oscar nomination, the cynic in me thought, “She’s just reading lines and doesn’t even know just what she’s doing.”  She knew exactly what she was doing.

Black Swan –

This one gets pretty wild.  I don’t know if I’d have given Natalie Portman an award for whatever she did in Black Swan, but Darren Aronofsky’s psychological masterpiece deserves every other award it didn’t get.

Blade Runner –

I honestly didn’t care much for Blade Runner the first time I watched it, finding its plot unduly convoluted and its then-innovative themes all too familiar and simplistic by today’s standards.  How many movies since Blade Runner have tried to humanize the robot slave or meditate on the frailty of human life and memories, which briefly and irrevocably dissolve into time, “like tears in rain”?  Then I tried it again as a slightly older college student and got a completely different impression.  Having more foreknowledge of the narrative’s direction and the characters’ relations to each other, I was able to appreciate Blade Runner’s structure as a series of things that I, like Deckard, just couldn’t believe, moments that shine brightly and briefly before fading into a mounting atmosphere of fatalism, hopelessness, and death.  There’s the “Let me tell you about my mother” scene, the Voight Kampf test of Rachel, the cat and mouse hunt played out between Batty and Deckard, the unicorn dream sequence, and of course the stunningly creative, Vangelis-accompanied visuals of a future Los Angeles roamed by replicants in hiding.  The film is gorgeous in a moody, rain-soaked sort of way, and I found the characters’ remorse much more palpable when I focused on the artistic look over any of the dialogue.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid –

Virtually defines the epic western.

The Cabin In The Woods –

Despite its torturously generic title, The Cabin in the Woods is anything but a generic slasher tribute to The Evil Dead.  There are so many layers of symbolism and subtext at play here you could probably make a movie about the making of the movie, but The Cabin in the Woods already is that movie.

Cast Away –

A movie about a guy who just keeps breathing even after losing everything he loves, twice.  I found it surprising how well it holds up even now that we’re inundated with shows purporting to show real people surviving the real deal.  Zemeckis took a very simple story on paper and made something extraordinary out of it through subtle images, strong sound, and staggering cinematography.

Chronicle –

The filmmakers basically abandon the found footage framework at the very end, but I didn’t care because the storytelling method by that point had become irrelevant. If you liked Man of Steel and its 40-minute ending battle, you probably won’t like Chronicle, which has about 10 minutes of violence in total and fills the rest of its runtime with character development.  If, like me, you’re sick of superhero origin depictions and need something to restore your belief in the artistic merit of the genre, Chronicle proves that they can be as intelligent and empathetic as any other drama.

Courage Under Fire –

Just a thought-provoking Gulf War moving starring Denzel and Meg Ryan.  I don’t remember much about it, but ’twas good.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon –

Saying nothing of the action, what a phenomenal ending does this movie have.

The Dark Knight Trilogy –

All of them are pretty great.  Rises may be my favorite of the three for showing what happens when Somebody’s house turns into Everybody’s house.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes –

Full review here.  A surprisingly monkeyavellian war film that incidentally has nothing to do with gun control.

The Descendants –

I tried complaining about the swearing in Descendants when I first watched (and reviewed) it two years ago; in retrospect, this was mainly due to the lack of anything else that really warranted complaining.  Later on, upon venturing to Beatissima and watching it again with fresher ears, I realized there’s barely any swearing worth noting in The Descendants, even from Shailene Woodley, who may have then hit the peak of her talent and natural beauty before moving on trashy YA junk.  Everything about it works: the music, the writing, the actors, the scouting, Sid’s retarded younger brother.  Not for people who prefer their movies happy and uplifting, but very moving and deftly executed all around.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels –

Just watch it.

District 9 –

The worst thing to be said about District 9 is that it gives up the documentary feel halfway through to look like a normal sci-fi movie.  That is actually the worst thing anyone has said about District 9.  CG prawns blend seamlessly with the scummiest of urban landscapes, ideas on apartheid/racism are powerfully stated, and masterful acting by Sharlto Copley sells the most hideous and poetic of external transformations.

Donnie Darko –

I don’t know if Donnie Darko will stay on this list by the time I get around to finishing it again (the DVD broke down 40 minutes in on my second viewing), but as an experimental time-travel mystery it certainly rewards careful thought and conversation, which is all I ask of a movie aimed at grown-ups.  I don’t recall it being very flattering towards political conservatives, but the originality of its structure makes up for that in my mind.  The thing I especially admired about Donnie Darko by the end was its depiction of a truly selfless sacrifice by a man, a deed done not for the sake of looking like a better person but with full knowledge and acceptance that his noble deed will go unnoticed by the whole world and, more crushingly, by the one he loves enough to do it in the first place.

Fast-travel to other parts:
E-H
I-L
M-P
Q-S
T-Z