Monday, December 31, 2007

More Great Films

I wanted to highlight what I consider curious omissions from the American Film Institute's top 100 list. Considering films like The Sixth Sense, Toy Story, and Titanic(!!!) made the list I wonder who votes on these things. Anyway the following are American classics that are certainly in the top twenty, if not top ten, American films. Trust me, I've seen every movie in AFI's top twenty.

The Magnificent Ambersons

After Citizen Kane this is Orson Welles best film. It is impossible for me to NOT watch it if I see even one scene. Every acting performance is brilliant, particularly Joseph Cotten and Tim Holt. This has yet to be released (officially) onto DVD and sadly that may be why it was snubbed by AFI. Leaving this one out is not just wrong according to my opinion, it is a total joke, and makes AFI look curiously uninformed!
Actually if you compare their list from 1998 and the recent one from this past year it is amazing how films like Raging Bull and Vertigo (which I have shown are considered top ten internationally) suddenly jumped 20 and 52 spots respectively between the two polls. The Searchers which barely made the list in 98 (at #96) jumped a whopping 84 spots! I wouldn't be surprised when their next list comes out, if Ambersons is in the top twenty or something...when it is re-released onto DVD. Idiots.

The Manchurian Candidate

John Frankenheimer's best work is also the best non-Hitchcock, Hitchcock type thriller ever made (besides Carol Reed's The Third Man). The fact that it was remade is movie sacrilege almost on par with Gus Van Sant's remake of Pyscho. Where do these ideas come from? Idiots.

Sherlock Jr.

Although I was extremely happy AFI finally recognized Buster Keaton's other masterpiece The General on their latest poll, sadly Sherlock Jr. still goes unnoticed for the groundbreaking work that it is. Perhaps it's short running time causes it to be overlooked or maybe they can only fit a certain number of silent classics on their list. Anyway, at least they removed Al Jolson's Jazz Singer this time around.

The Night Of The Hunter

I have already listed this one in my personal top ten and the fact that the American Film Institute doesn't have this film listed is criminal to me. Along with The Magnificent Ambersons I think this is the biggest mistake they have made. This was Charles Laughton's one and only directed film and what a film to be remembered for. Many people probably only think of this as a very dark, noir classic (ok, that was redundant) with Robert Mitchum as a homocidal, phony preacher. It is his best role by the way. But I love it for many other reasons. Lillian Gish plays probably the last true Christian in American cinema. Her character is excellent and excellently written. I still need to buy this one on DVD myself. And by the way, I did receive Band Of Brothers on DVD for Christmas! Thanks, honey!

Anyway, these films need to be watched and spoken for the next time any "Greatest" list comes around.

Oh yeah, and Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Greatest Films

There is much debate about which are the greatest films ever made. I was lucky enough to receive the Japanese classic Ugetsu directed by Kenji Mizoguchi this Christmas, which is considered one of the greatest but not even close to the top ten greatest films according to most sources. So I decided to take it upon myself to do a bit of research into the opinions of those past and present to determine what in fact are the top ten greatest films in history. Of course this is all subjective and one man's Ugetsu is another man's Forrest Gump so I understand that this will not matter in the least to some and will cause angry denunciation from others. In a way a list is sort of ridiculous when considering ALL films since it is very hard to determine the better of a silent Russian film like Potemkin and a 21st century, computer animated film like The Incredibles. In my personal opinion they are both important and amazing achievements in their respective genres but pretty much impossible to compare or rank with one another.

There is also the problem of judging a film on many different levels. Some may evoke an emotional response whereas others are technically brilliant but wouldn't make it into anyone's "favorites" list (at least if they are honest!) I have decided to rank my personal favorites to show that they are nothing like the list I have found to be the "greatest" from purely a scientific (albeit flawed science) and objective ranking of films based on the "expert" opinions of hundreds of critics, directors, and more. I have taken into account the AFI lists which obviously do not include non-American films. The average score for foreign films will come from a smaller pool but are not unfairly penalized for their omission from the AFI lists. The AFI lists are only used to determine the placement of American films along with their respective placement in other international polls such as Sight and Sound which is considered the most definitive. I have also used the most recent poll from Total Film magazine to get an average. So here is the result of my flawed science:

1. Citizen Kane

Number one for nearly half a century on every Sight and Sound poll and every other reputable poll on Earth including both AFI polls. I have gotten tired of trying to defend its greatness to those who have only watched it ONCE!!!! There is no other piece of art I know of which requires more study to appreciate than Citizen Kane. I must have watched it ten times before I really started to see what's so amazing about it. It is in my top ten and gets better with age. It may not be my "favorite" film but I agree it is the best ever made.

2. Fellini's 8 1/2

The Director's anthem. A personal journey into the creative process, the madness of making films, the best movie about making movies (with Truffaut's Day For Night not too far behind) and Italy's greatest film.

3. The Rules of the Game

Coming in third by the narrowest of margins this Jean Renoir classic tops the critic's choice lists just behind Citizen Kane as the best movie ever. This social satire set in a country manor is easy to enjoy and is the greatest film in French cinema history.

4. The Godfather I and II

Since it has become common in the Sight and Sound poll to combine the two classics (and leave out the third, ha ha!) I have done the same here, but because the two have ranked separately in the past the aggregate score is lower than it would be for the original film. Oh, well, I try. Honestly wrestling with which of the two is best is too hard anyway.

5. Vertigo

Consistently over time Alfred Hitchcock has been voted at or near the top of every "greatest directors" list and this is considered his masterpiece by a huge consensus. After missing the top ten in 98, AFI put Vertigo at number 9 in their 2007 edition. It is appreciated even more internationally and made the 2002 S&S critic's poll at #2 behind Citizen Kane. Bernard Hermann's eery score and one of Jimmy Stewart's best performances make this one a classic.

6. Seven Samarai

Along with Kurosawa's Rashomon, which is also frequently named in top ten lists, this is Japan's greatest film. The inspiration for the American western The Magnificent Seven this is Akira Kurosawa's most enduring classic which runs the gamut of emotion and action and ironically was inspired by the classic American westerns of John Ford. With Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura anchoring a great cast this one never gets old. And it is also in my top ten!

7. Tokyo Story

Yasujiro Ozu's masterpiece has mostly gained critical acclaim over the last two decades. A slow, emotional film (Ozu's hallmark) which examines family relationships. Beautifully done, but probably not the kind of film many Western audiences would appreciate.

8. Raging Bull

Martin Scorsese at his best and Robert DeNiro in not only the performance of his career but one of the best in cinema history. James Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life is still the greatest ever in my opinion, but DeNiro as Jake LaMotta is not far behind. If you've never seen it be warned, very strong language and one ugly temper!

9. Singin' In The Rain

Number One musical ever made according to AFI and the best according to every other movie list you can find. Gene Kelly's masterpiece and the one he is most remembered for with a captivating story about making movies (seems to be a theme here!) and some of the best dancing ever captured on film. I've heard the "Moses Supposes" dance sequence is the best in movie history. I dunno, I ain't much of a dance expert but it does look pretty fast to me.

10. Lawrence Of Arabia

David Lean's crowning achievement. Apparently Lean said "let's go out into the middle of the desert with a bunch of unknown actors and make an epic" or something like that. He did pretty good for himself as this won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1962. Peter O'Toole is excellent in his film debut. This one has influenced many films and directors over the years, Steven Spielberg in particular.

Just for the heck of it here are a couple of great films that just missed the top ten.

11. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Kubrick's best.

12. The Searchers

Both John Ford's and John Wayne's best film and the number one Western of all time.

My personal favorites

1. Casablanca

2. O, Brother Where Art Thou?

3. Ben-Hur

4. It's A Wonderful Life

5. Raiders Of The Lost Ark

6. Citizen Kane

7. Bottle Rocket- Duh!

8. Seven Samarai

9. Annie Hall

10. The Night Of The Hunter

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My favorite Christmas movies

Every year certain movies are necessary to enjoying the Christmas season. Here are the top five for me (plus an honorable mention)

1. It's A Wonderful Life- James Stewart, Donna Reed

It is kind of a shame that this is just considered a holiday film since it is one of the greatest in American cinema history. It is in AFI's top twenty (and my top five!)and only gets better with age. Capra's favorite film of all the classics he made and Jimmy Stewart's favorite as well. Powerful masterpiece!

2. Scrooge- Albert Finney, Alec Guinness

This british musical production of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" is my favorite but I have to confess I did not grow up watching the Alistair Sim version which has become the critic's choice as the best. To me the songs and the ghosts make this one a cut above and Albert Finney is great! I get these songs stuck in my head the rest of the year until it's time to watch it again.

3. Holiday Inn- Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire

This is home to the original version of Irving Berlin's classic "White Christmas" sung by the incomparable Bing Crosby. Add some excellent footwork by Fred Astaire and you have a delightful Christmas comedy with plenty of story and plenty of musical numbers for all of the holidays! (of course the black-face routine does show how times have changed)

4. A Christmas Story- Peter Billingsley

I think this one has become the favorite of my generation and for good reason. It is the funniest movie on this list with so many memorable scenes and quotable lines it's no surprise why it has become so popular. Some of my favorites are "yellow eyes, so help me" "I can't put my arms down!" and "Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra" but most people remember "You'll shoot your eye out, kid"

5. Miracle On 34th St- Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood

Before Wonderful Life's rebirth in the 70s thanks to television this was the classic Christmas favorite and still is for many people. Natalie Wood is fabulous at such a young age and Santa played by Edmund Gwenn is the best in movie history.

Honorable Mention:

Elf- Will Farrell

Move over Christmas Story there's a new funniest Christmas movie, but maybe not as good. I like this one more every time I see it. My kids absolutely love it and would watch it every day of the season if I let 'em. "I'm singing, and I'm in a store, and I'm SIIIIINGING!" "You sit on a throne of lies" "He's an angry elf"

I also really like The Shop Around The Corner with Jimmy Stewart and The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

All I Want For Christmas Is....

-Algore to actually debate someone with an opposing viewpoint on global warming, preferably Dr. Roy Spencer.

-Drivers learning how to use a "turn lane" and realizing you cannot cross a solid white line which the "Stay In Lane" sign should obviously indicate.

-The person in front of the endless line of cars for the left turn arrow ACTUALLY looking at the light in front of them and not the quilt they're knitting in their lap or the message they are texting at the dumbest possible moment!

-For fast food places to train their teenage employees in some sort of "telephone" type game and reading comprehension so the person taking my order at the drive-thru window and the person preparing my order are at least in the same ballpark.

-For sports media people to stop looking at everything from the narrowest possible viewpoint and realizing the bigger picture.
Does anybody really care about Michael Vick PLAYING football again? I think there's more to life don't you?
WAS Reggie Bush a better first round pick than Mario Williams? Who has better stats this year? Give it time and temper the hyperbole.
Is Nick Saban grossly overpaid? It's only been one season! Let him get recruits on the field for goodness sake!
Are the Patriots the best team ever? Maybe...I dunno...WAIT 'til the season is over to ask that question?!

-For you mainstream media people to stop acting like you are even remotely objective. Just put a sign by your name, like congressmen do, that says "Democrat" or at least "liberal" before you cite unnamed sources (e.g. "critics say" or "some are critical"). Because at this point I just assume "David Gregory says" or "Helen Thomas is critical of the Bush administration" since you don't bother to tell us who actually feels that way. And every time there is positive news just report it as positive news don't try to editorialize it with "but there are negative feelings in spite of the gains, etc. etc." and other obvious and unnecessary caveats to prevent you from giving any kind of credit to opposing political viewpoints. Or just go do your own O'Reilly show and quit reporting altogether!

-For Hollywood idiots to stick to "pretending" and quit preaching to the public about not driving SUVs, not using toilet paper, putting vegetable oil in our cars, and other incredibly hypocritical, childish, and irrational sermons to those they haven't one thing in common with.

-For people who have a problem with saying "Merry Christmas",saying "Happy Hannukah", Christmas trees, nativity scenes, menorahs, the star of David, crosses, Christmas carols, Christmas parades, and even the secular image of Christmas,Santa Claus, to please KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! Grin and bear it and Merry Christmas TO YOU!!! And if you think I'm gonna acknowledge that commie invention called Kwaanza, then may Jesus Christ who was born in a manger, grew in stature and favor with God and man, became the lamb of the world, bore our iniquities by dying for our sins, even death on a cross, to save the world and rent the temple veil in two so that all may enter in and that EVERY knee would bow and call him Lord, BLESS you and keep you until the day of his returning. Amen. If that offends them, then GOOD! As it is written in Isaiah and Romans, He is a "rock of offense" and a "stone of stumbling". If they are offended they're on the right track.

-Whirled Peas...and Band of Brothers on DVD. Thanks and Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Songs That Make Me Wanna Break Something!

Certain inauspicious melodies which someone unfortunately heard in their sleep, wrote down, and performed or gave to some poor gullible soul to perform and are now publicly heard on radio stations, in malls and super markets, spawned onto the world with absolutely no regard for the mental state of those who have to bear the sound of even one note of these awful, anger-inducing, recordings of sonic vomit are in dire need of recognition for the swill that they are in an effort to let someone...ANYONE in charge of playing them, know that they are indeed horrible and must die a horrible "burn your CDs for religious reasons" death or even in a "Death to Disco" sort of way. I know that was a big time run-on sentence, but I just had to get that down. Here's the top ten "sonic vomit" of which I speak:

10. Wannabe- The Spice Girls
This is that "Tell me what you want, what you really really want..." obnoxious, repetitive song performed by the highest concentration of talentless individuals in world history (except maybe the modern Democratic party)

9. Disco Duck - Rick Dees.
I guess this song isn't supposed to be taken seriously anyway, but man does it "disco, disco suck!"

8. Blame It On The Rain- Milli Vanilli.
Nevermind that it was lip-synched, I hated this one the first time I heard it.

7. Jump- Kriss Kross
"Kriss Kross will make you THROW UP!!"

6. Everything I Do, I Do It For You- Bryan Adams
Yeah, I know picking just ONE Bryan Adams song for this list is a tough task but this one's association with that horrible piece of film excrement "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves" makes it a shoe-in!

5. Baby, I Love Your Way- Peter Frampton
The only thing worse than this song is a remake of this song of which there are several, but I think I should give credit where it's due for ever making this song radio material in the first place. "Stay away from me Frampton, I ain't got s*** to say to you!".....(except that you suck)

4. Mr. Jones- Counting Crows
I know that someone reading this right now is going "hey, I like that song"...well I DON'T!! And it's thanks to selfish, no-taste people like you that I still have to hear that dreadhead poser whining on Muzak at the store or some crappy cover band try to whine just like him at weddings, clubs, or wherever. Can you and Mr. Jones step in front of a bus, please!

3. Achy, Breaky Heart- Billy Ray Cyrus
These right here are twelve too many words about this stupid song!
(you're counting right now aren't you?)

2. Mmm-Bop- Hanson
I know of people who become visibly angry at the mere mention of this "song".
And you know who you are.

1. Song Bird- Kenny G
Honestly, I could just put Kenny G at number one. It's like picking the worst song by Color Me Badd or Hootie and the Blowfish , except five gazillion times worse. I saw a guy at church once who died and saw the afterlife, both Heaven and Hell. He talked about seeing demons and all that stuff, but the worst thing about Hell (even the eternal flames!) was hearing Song Bird on an eternal loop. He said that was the absence of God's presence in musical form. I agree. I feel like Hannibal Lecter when I hear it or Travis Bickle with the mohawk and the gun sliding out of my sleeve. Whoever plays it must be one of Satan's henchmen. Do not tolerate it for the sake of humanity. Please.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fuzzy Math

I always hated word problems in school. It was hard enough to do regular problems but then they gotta throw in a little story just to confuse me some more. I think if you add elements people are familiar with, like interesting characters and some kind of memorable story, then maybe those word problems would make more sense and then I'd care what the answer was. If only someone with my active imagination wrote math textbooks when I was a lad.

Problem #1

With a fifteen (15) mile per hour cross-breeze, if you dropped Celine Dion, Jaleel White, and Hillary Clinton from the top of the Empire State building which one would get cleaned off the pavement first?

Problem #2

If Stephon Marbury lobs an air-ball at 9 mph, Eli Manning throws an interception at 56 mph, and Alex Rodriguez hits a pop-up with the bases loaded at 93 mph, at what velocity will the BOOS of New York sports fans reach the ear of the professional athlete from the "nosebleed" section?

Problem #3

If a bullet train leaving New York City carrying Michael Moore is travelling 4.2 mph and a cement truck leaving Los Angeles carrying Calista Flockhart is travelling 117 mph, at what US city will they find a restaurant with "Buckets o' Deep Fat Fried Butter (with gravy)" and "Steamed Grapeskins" on the same menu to meet for lunch?

I guess the gravy makes it easier for Ally McBeal to "purge" later. I would never guess about the grapeskins with Moore, though. Guess he eats lots of 'em right before bed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Screen Divas!

Lately the discussion has come up "who is the most beautiful screen legend of all?" Someone nominated Audrey Hepburn, and although I love her and would put her amongst my favorite actresses, I cannot think of her as anything more that "cute" in appearance. Others might think of Bardot or Raquel Welch or even Elizabeth Taylor...Nah, not for me. Now I believe a list is in order and so the order goes like this:

1. Grace Kelly- No one comes close, past or present

2. Lana Turner- see Johnny Eager- perfect!

3. Rita Hayworth- If you've seen The Shawshank Redemption you know what I mean!

4. Maureen O'Hara- Fiery, classy and gorgeous!

5. Anita Ekberg- More of a pinup than actress.

6. Claudia Cardinale- Italian bombshell before Monica Belucci

7. Natalie Wood- Ironically she played Maureen O'Hara's daughter in Miracle on 34th St.

8. Ginger Rogers- Beautiful eyes. Amazing dancer.

9. Marilyn Monroe- duh!

10. Sophia Loren- Another Italian bombshell. Like a fine Italian wine she only gets better with age.

And for the record I also love Barbara Stanwyck and Ingrid Bergman. Any other favorites I left out?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fred's Dead!

This one came to me in a dream. "Unfair Kung Fu Mismatch" from the other side:

Fred Rogers


Fred Krueger

Mr. Rogers puts on his cardigan and sneakers and tells Freddie he's "special". He asks Freddie to be his neighbor in song causing the X-men wannabe to sob uncontrollably. Mr. Rogers puts his arm around Freddie's shoulder and listens to an hour long confession of wrong-doings. Freddie's ghastly body disentegrates, his soul finally free from its prison floating to the heavenly light.
Mr. Rogers just smiles with satisfaction.
Bang, bang, bang! A knock on the front door. "Special Delivery!"
"Damn", Mr. Roger grunts as he pulls off a sneaker, opens the door, and beats that nerdy mailman's head into a bloody pulp. "How-*whack*-many-*whack*-times-*whack*-have-*whack*-I-*whack*-told-*whack*-you to never bother me again in eternity?!!"-*whack* The special delivery man's soul escapes and plummets to Hades. Yep, Mr. Rogers is the Angel of Death...nice work (post-mortem) if you can get it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

King Fu!

Completely "Unfair" mismatch:

Don King


King Leonidas

"America is the greatest country in..." SPLAT!