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.

Incendies (u1) –

The story of Incendies probably doesn’t look all that incredible laid out front to back on paper, but the genius of Denis Villeneuve’s possible magnum opus is that he doesn’t tell it front to back, staging what could have been a tiring melodrama or anti-war polemic as a gripping mystery.  The final moments are at once tragic, sobering, hopeful, and cathartic, but the movie lingers most for a four-minute, devastating scene in the middle, which stands alone as a complete story in itself and represents the unforgettable capacity of film.

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.

Insomnia (u1)

An earlier and less expensive entry in the Christopher Nolan canon, Insomnia doesn’t depend on a mindblowing, 3rd act twist or IMAX spectacles to capture audiences, which has led to the woeful popular appraisal that it’s one of his weaker films.  Between it and Memento, Nolan proves his deftness at telling smaller stories with depth and grandeur, and Insomnia will make great supplementary viewing for any budding philosopher who’s struggling to understand Kant.  Edited to near-perfection (one shootout briefly exposes Nolan’s then-ungainliness with action), acted superbly by all, and shot in several beautiful northwestern locations, the movie deserves a lot more recognition than it’s received, which is why it’s going on the prestigious 100-Something Movies List.

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.

The Jerk (u1)

In which Steve Martin is raised a poor, black child.  The Jerk may also feature my favorite usage of a ukulele in a movie.

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 hyper-violent Chapter 5 borders on jaw-dropping.

The Killer (u1) –

The soundtrack is terrible, but this is action movie gold, so pure in fact that given the state of current American action I would call it required viewing.

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.

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.”
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.

Lady Snowblood (u1)

Is pretty much what you could envision from the title, with copious amounts of all three present.  Lady Snowblood looks gorgeous, especially on the Criterion Collection restoration, and bests many more traditional samurai pictures for sheer entertainment and practical blood gushing effects.  Whether or not it surpasses Kill Bill, its affectionately made rip-off, is a matter of personal taste, although I consider the absence of Tarantino’s vulgar dialogue a plus.  Lady Snowblood 2 also merits viewing, though its more political and complicated story probably impairs Americans’ ability to relate to it.

Lars and the Real Girl (u1)

Watching Lars and the Real Girl, I kept thinking about three things in the back of my head: pornography, my generation’s fear of long-term commitments, and trannies.  At least one of these was probably intended by writer Nancy Oliver, while others are natural byproducts of Lars being a generally well-written, layered movie that, much like Citizen Kane’s brazen invective of a contemporary, uber-wealthy businessman whom no one thinks upon or trembles at anymore, only gets richer with age. Perhaps its greatest accomplishment is getting me to feel sad (and rather mad) over Lars and his predicament at the beginning, then bringing me around to feel sad together with him by the end.  Enthusiastically recommended to Christian congregations which don’t watch anything unless it’s animated or paints all Christians in an unambiguously flattering light, to those who liked Her or May or I’m A Cyborg But That’s OK, and to really any human being.

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.

Life of Brian (u1)

Holy Grail will always be the most popular Monty Python venture, but Life of Brian is my pick for their smartest.  Watching the latter for the first time in 2016, it’s hard to fathom why churches in Europe once condemned it with such defensive fervor.  Maybe it had something to do with humans’ tendency to echo, like, or retweet what they hear about a subject rather than investigating it for themselves, which is much harder and doesn’t grant the same immediacy of satisfaction.  Whatever the case, Life of Brian ironically is little more than a hilarious story about thinking for yourself and not blindly following charismatic speakers because of a crowd.  It may even teach the uninitiated a thing or two about Latin and Biggus Dikkus, though there’s absolutely nothing funny about the latter individual. Americanes, rident non!

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 Lobster (u1)

My selection as of this writing for the movie of 2016, The Lobster has enough big ideas within it to inspire several essays on the role of government, the symbolic significance of marriage, and the authenticity of reality TV dating or social media presence.  With any luck someday I will get around to writing one of those essays, but for now I’ll just say that Yorgos Lanthimos’ film feels like a purely dystopian story, which is probably why it hasn’t resonated that much with the general population looking for something to entertain them on Amazon Prime (where this currently boasts a 2.4/5).  The Lobster isn’t meant to serve as entertainment, though it’s often humorous in a sickly way, and the onerous length of certain slow-motion scenes is the one thing in my mind that holds it back from perfection, making subsequent viewings more of a slog than necessary.  The performances are cold and stilted across the board, but in the universe of The Lobster, one can think of several good reasons why the bachelors and bachelorettes would want or have to suppress outward displays of emotion.  In an era where insipid action movies are dressed up as “dystopian fiction” and marketed to young adults who don’t know the roots of the genre, it was so satisfying to observe a film that had assurance in the strength of its philosophy and didn’t peddle breakneck parkour sequences, irredeemable government stormtroopers, or a teenage rebel who “can change everything”.

Locke (u1) 

Tom Hardy is great per usual as well as the unique, reflection-heavy cinematography, but what raises Locke from improvisational, stage play experiment to cinematic wonder is its themes of manhood and responsibility.  This is one of the manliest movies I’ve ever seen, not because of Ivan Locke’s outer feats of strength or masculinity or stubbornness, but because he more clearly and concisely embodies what it means to be a grown man than any beefy action hero.  Locke owns the mistakes he makes in life and works to rectify them no matter the consequences to himself, and by the denouement he has left us both profoundly moved and devastated.

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.

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.

Evil Dead II and Hausu (u1) –

A couple basic things I learned about filmmaking from watching Evil Dead II: 1. Cutting scenes on action can be very startling and effective; 2. POV shots are sorely underutilized in modern cinema; 3. Practical effects can look really cheesy, and sometimes that is charming; 4. Humor and horror are a lot less separate than one might think.  Both rely on setting up and subverting expectations, and a great director will allow his viewers sufficient leeway to laugh or recoil as they will.  This is what separates a political comedy like Borat from a TV sitcom like Friends, or a Sam Raimi horror film from the latest chapter in the Insidious-Conjuring saga.

I affix Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 film House to the more customary Evil Dead not because it’s more entertaining or because it inspired the latter (House wasn’t released in the United States until Janus/Criterion picked it up in the 2000s), but for lifting some symbolical weight from the whacky horror comedy genre and for pushing the limits with its visual weirdness.  It’s also just more pleasing to look at all around, achieving moments of simple beauty in its colorful sunsets and killings, whereas Evil Dead II delights viewers more by its homespun, unabashedly cheap aesthetic than by Raimi’s painterly eye for composition.  In truth, if you were to watch any of the ugly Evil Dead movies every week for a lifetime, you’d probably get sick of the world pretty fast.  The Hausu Blu-ray comes with subtitles, so you could induce yourself to take a pleasant, 90-minute nap nearly every time.

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.

Ghost in the Shell 1.0 and 2.0 (u1)

Densely philosophical science-fiction that’s animated immaculately and often strains one’s ability to follow the plot.  Treads a lot of the same ground since covered by Ex MachinaSnowpiercer, and of course The Matrix, and I maintain a weird theory that the art team of the game Mirror’s Edge must have spent a lot of time pouring over Ghost’s future Hong Kong.  I actually prefer the second movie for its more involving narrative and action, so if you find the original too plodding and unapproachable, give Innocence a shot. Or go watch the Scarjo remake soon to hit theaters that looks like generic, PG-13, robot-fighting-for-its-freedom trash.

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.

Hard Candy (u1) –

Allow me to cut the tension: Hard Candy is an extraordinarily unrelenting and stylized experiment in generating empathy for a really messed-up guy, propelled by powerhouse acting and luscious, ethereal filmmaking.  Its centerpiece, which stretches on for at least 15 minutes in several shots that bleed into each other, has to be the most uncomfortable scene for male viewers in modern American cinema. Simply put, it took a lot of balls to make this movie, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to feminists.  Or maybe I would.  I don’t know.

On a side-note, Hard Candy introduced me to my favorite song by Blonde Redhead, which sounds all the more punchy and hypnotic after the near-total absence of musical score in the rest of the movie.  If you do plan on watching something with a title and a poster like Hard Candy, then don’t click on the link to Elephant Woman.  If you don’t, however, plan on that, then do click on the link.

Hardcore Henry (u1)

I’ve swayed back and forth in my mind on whether Hardcore Henry belongs on a list of movies for people who like movies.  It’s certainly a movie for those who like video games, and for those who, recognizing the numerous faults of modern first-person shooters, criticize such perversions of gaming form with knowledge and passionate urgency.  The majority of mainstream critics, having attained the age or elitist sophistication that apparently precludes one from recognizing interactive storytelling as art, don’t hate Hardcore Henry’s inspirations with knowledge or with passion or with urgency, which led nearly half of them to dismiss it as dumb, mindless fun instead of crediting it for what it is: an intelligent and pointed parody that one can also passively enjoy as an extremely fun and over-the-top action movie.  In truth, Hardcore Henry skewers nearly every gaming cliché imaginable – formulaic level design, in-game tutorials, bad NPC lines, overlapping dialogue, boss battles, a silent protagonist, equestrian transportation, scantily clad warriors – and does so through a highly entertaining POV presentation that hasn’t been executed so well by the artiest of art films.  But I suppose you wouldn’t know that if you’ve never held a video game controller.

Heathers (u1) –

They just don’t make high-school movies like this anymore, movies that gleefully revel and find humor in the kind of hot-button topics that Millennials’ mollycoddled and puritanical culture has anointed not to be questioned or transgressed.  Upon consideration, I don’t think that any mainstream teen movie has succeeded the irreverence of Heathers, which owes in part to the patronizing notion that movies about or aimed at young people should have an explicitly moralizing function.  Believing high-schoolers haven’t yet developed the moral compass to discern independently that Winona Ryder and Christian Slater are playing really unethical and depraved people, studios prudishly refrain from OK’ing any script starring a teenage starlet as an anti-hero unless it verbally labels her an anti-hero and reforms her through her experiences.

Heathers has no such reservations about the satirical comprehension of its viewers.  This is a daring and different pre-Columbine comedy, and one that I am very glad exists.

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.

The Hunt (u1) –

In a time when campuses like the regrettably-named Emerson College actively discourage misandrist, brainwashed youths from using neutral qualifiers like “alleged” or “accused” in reference to sexual assault, the themes of this uncommon Danish movie seem all the more poignant and vital.  Intentionally or not, The Hunt feels like a convicted rebuttal to the all the most trumpeted tenets of rape culture ideology: the severity of the claim doesn’t inherently give it credence, people lie for a multitude of reasons, even about rape/assault/harassment, and persecuting someone found innocent in the name of justice is just about the most unjust, uncharitable thing one can do.

If this had been an English-language film, Mads Mikkelsen would currently be an Oscar-winning actor.

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