Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Film: Part 1

Well, I've finally decided to write a post about movies.  It was this or my sixth episode of Mad About You this morning.

Those of you who know me in my personal life, know that I have a degree in Cultural Studies, but I've often over-simplified things and told people my degree is in film.  I should really stop doing this. One, it's a little disrespectful towards the literature and art I studied, and - two - it makes people think I have more technical know-how than I do.  Let me tell you what my degree got me.

It got me a job in a video store.  I will say this once: there is nothing wrong with working in retail*. However, while working at the store, I overdosed on movies pretty badly and didn't watch any for a few years.  Even now, watching a movie is a little rare for me.  I'm telling you this so you know my opinion on recent movies is worth exactly bupkis.  Also, honestly, my opinions and knowledge of the older stuff is lacking, too.  I'm out of practice.

Here's a short list of some of my faves, some with explanations or general comments.

Metropolis (1927)
I promise I won't go year by year, but this was another that was big for me when I was a kid.  This film influenced me more than I probably realize.  I don't know if I'd be as big a science fiction fan as I am without having seen it as a kid (and the "as a kid" part is important, though I couldn't say why).

The version I most enjoy of this one has a soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder**.  I would say this is because I'm a product of the 1980's, but the editing on it is fantastic.  It is actually the shortest version, but the clearest in narrative (of the handful I've seen).

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Charles Laughton in a comedy.  I love him, and this movie is just fantastic.  Everyone in it is incredibly well cast.  It is a little "yay, America," but I feel it's justifiable here.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
I get genuinely disappointed at whichever rank this gets on the AFI top 100 list.  It always feels low to me.

Wings of Desire (1987)
This is the movie that made me change majors when I saw it in first year.  Hollywood remade it as "City of Angels," and removed anything worthwhile from the film***.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
My first serious Hollywood crush.  Still waiting on the sequel.

I'm gonna break the land speed record with the least aerodynamic design in existence.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
It's this perfect, little piece of candy, filled with lovely people (including Noah Taylor!)  I used to say this was my favourite film, but then Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) came out.  It's pretty clear that I really do like Wes Anderson, but I don't think I'm a blind follower by any sense of the word.  I haven't seen Darjeeling Limited since it came out;  it feels like an attempt to create a Wes Anderson film.  There's this thin candy shell around it, with nothing inside.  It is worth pointing out here, that Wes' brother, Eric Chase Anderson, was not involved in Darjeeling Limited.  In the other films, his design was such a heavy influence (the stage of the bisected boat in Life Aquatic was his design, all the drawings from Royal Tenenbaums).

This little list barely scratches the surface.  The truth of the matter is, there are probably at least 3 different lists:

  • favourites (includes movies with drastic flaws, eg. Comic Book Villains)
  • movies I think are important from a film standpoint
  • movies I think are important from a legal standpoint (this would include mondo and some of the more extreme horror)

At some point, I realized that I didn't have any one favourite anymore.  I think this stands true for everything. For a 15 year period, if you had asked me who my favourite band was, I'd have told you Radiohead****. But there are so many worthwhile musicians out there.  Favourite author?  Spider Robinson, but there's a lot of other writers out there (he's still super high on the list, though).

*except for dealing with snarky customers, am I right, folks?
**also, he composed "Danger Zone" for all you Top Gun fans.
***Separate the wheat from the chaff, and be sure the chaff is released as a movie.
****But please don't put me in a room with a bunch of other Radiohead fans

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