52 in 52


Hello again friends! I am pleased to report that I have managed to keep up my film viewing at a good pace since the last update.

Week 24: Ice Age: The Meltdown. British Airways actually has a pretty solid set of films that they make available to international travelers. So of I course I chose to watch the sequel to Ice Age, as I really didn’t have the energy to watch anything without squirrels in it. Like the first movie, The Meltdown captures a good cross-section of cute animals, apropro real-world themes and oddly risque adult humor – but, really, who cares about anything other than the saber-toothed squirrel?

Thats right.

That's right.

Week 25: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I remember having no idea what this movie was supposed to be about, based on the previews. My friend selected it as the movie to watch on a slow evening while hanging out at my buddies place in Edinburgh; such a good call!  It hits an exact tone of comic quirkiness that resonates well with me; it’s also really filmically interesting. Done in that faux-documentary style that’s all the rage these days, this homage/sendup of Jacques Cousteau and nature films managed to make me both laugh hysterically and WTF constantly. Which is good. Highly recommended, if you’re into red caps, speedos and Bill Murray.

Week 26: A Fish Called Wanda. Classic, curtosy again of British Airways! John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis star in the ’88 comedy concerning crime, love, revenge and fish. I think I saw this for the first time when I was, like, 12, and my memory does not deceive me – it’s great. John Cleese, who also co-wrote the script, plays as straight a man as I think he’s capable of, while the rest of the cast scrambles around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get their hands on a whole bunch o’ diamonds. A few laugh-out-loud moments, great sexual comedy, and some very poignent vignettes. Great film.

Week 27: Azur and Asmar. As it turns out, I now have discounted admission to the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago, which a cursory glance at their programming will convice you is a totally rad thing. Last week I checked it out for the first time, attending a screening of this French animated film. Somewhat of a meditation on the definition of beauty and the nature of family and brotherhood, I was a little underwhelmed, mostly by the animation style. While the backgrounds and environments were rendered in a wonderful cel style, the actual character animations looked like Flash. Example:

See? Wierd!

See? Wierd!

So the dissonance in the animation actually made it difficult for me to follow the story. And it ended with a dance party. Which is not bad in and of itself, but was a little bollywood-esque in an inappropriate way, I thought.

Week 28: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have a thing for Tim Burton (surprise, surprise). I saw this when it came out, which was rad, and the watched it recently with one of my new neighbors, which was also rad, because the movie is – well, it’s rad. I mean, it’s hard to top the 1971 original, but I think this film actually co-exists with it, rather than attempts to replace it. It’s in a wierder zone, with an even creepier edge to it and some really mindful cruelty on the part of Wonka.

It’s also the beginning, I think, of Burton’s latest phase of film-making, which I affectionately refer to “I’m bored with my own work so I’m going to make movies that are even wierder” phase. I still like them (I mean, Sweeny Todd? That movie rules), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the mass market starts being put off by his films over the next couple of years. Good thing we have Guillermo del Toro to fill in the cultural gap.

Over the half-way point, and still caught up! Huzzah!

The Rankings, as of 7/11/09:

New Releases

  1. Milk (Week 1)
  2. Watchmen (Week 11)
  3. Gran Torino (Week 2)
  4. Star Trek (Week 19)
  5. Push (Week 10)
  6. Terminator Salvation (Week 21)

New To Me!

  1. Rear Window (Week 12)
  2. Let The Right One In (Week 23)
  3. Traffic (Week 17)
  4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Week 22)
  5. The Exorcist (Directors Cut) (Week 7)
  6. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Week 8 )
  7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Week 25)
  8. Hellboy (Week 3)
  9. Serenity (Week 5)
  10. Ice Age: The Meltdown (Week 24)
  11. Conan the Barbarian (Week 16)
  12. Formula 51 (Week 6)
  13. Azur and Asmar (Week 27)
  14. Slaughter of the Vampires (Week 18)
  15. The Hunger (Week 13)

Old Favorites

  1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Week 9)
  2. The Great Escape (Week 15)
  3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Week 28)
  4. Hook (Week 4)
  5. A Fish Called Wanda (Week 26)
  6. Dracula (1979 version) (Week 20)
  7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Week 14)

I have seen many movies. I think all I can do is one-sentance summaries to catch us all up.

Week 16: Conan the Barbarian. It’s nice how the lack of dialogue makes it easy to make bad jokes with your friends during the REALLY INTENSE MOMENTS.

Week 17: Traffic. Powerful film with just a fantastic cast…enough to ignore the overuse of mood/location setting color filters.

Week 18: Slaughter of the Vampires. Bad Italian horror film with warmed-over Dracula plot comes through with surprisingly beautiful dialogue…it’s better than The Hunger, at least!

Week 19: Star Trek. Geeked out over deft handling of an easily-effed-up property, good action, but my inner feminist is disappointed with the (non)handling of gender roles.

Week 20: Dracula (1979 version). Frank Langella is the best Dracula, bar none – my favorite movie version, though it still suffers from not really being a great movie compared to, like, actually good movies.

Week 21: Terminator Salvation. There sure are a lot of explosions in this movie!

Week 22: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Kubrick is one of my favorite directors, and he doesn’t dissapoint – masterful handling of the audience/protagonist relationship underlies the so-thick-it-chokes irony/commentary that’s still fairly relevant.

Week 23: Let The Right One In. A swedish vampire drama/horror/romance; not only is it the best vampire movie I’ve ever seen, bar none, it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of film I’ve had to pleasure to be an audience for. Simply wonderful.

…which puts me perfectly on top of things, as of 6/7/09! I am 23 for 23!

New Releases

  1. Milk (Week 1)
  2. Watchmen (Week 11)
  3. Gran Torino (Week 2)
  4. Star Trek (Week 19)
  5. Push (Week 10)
  6. Terminator Salvation (Week 21)

New To Me!

  1. Rear Window (Week 12)
  2. Let The Right One In (Week 23)
  3. Traffic (Week 17)
  4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Week 22)
  5. The Exorcist (Directors Cut) (Week 7)
  6. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Week 8 )
  7. Hellboy (Week 3)
  8. Serenity (Week 5)
  9. Conan the Barbarian (Week 16)
  10. Formula 51 (Week 6)
  11. Slaughter of the Vampires (Week 18)
  12. The Hunger (Week 13)

Old Favorites

  1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Week 9)*
  2. The Great Escape (Week 15)*
  3. Hook (Week 4)
  4. Dracula (1979 version) (Week 20)
  5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Week 14)

*finally chose….sorry Steve, but Clint is just that tiniest bit sexier. What can I say?

Shockingly enough, I’m still behind, but I haven’t quite fallen beyond my 4-weeks-and-out deadline. This marks Week 18, and I have watched 15 films. Can I pull myself out of this hole? Only one way to find out….

Anyway.

Week 12: Rear Window. The Hitchcock classic is classic for a reason – it’s really, really freaking good. I’ve seen scenes from it in film classes, but finally rented it, and wow. I think North by Northwest is still my favorite Hitchcock, but Rear Window is up there. The treatment of paranoia, loneliness and just the urgent need to take action is both subtly powerful and extremely applicable to today’s society, and the treatment of gender roles and the reversal of the typical 50’s gendered dynamic is both surprising (coming from Hitchcock, one of the more…paternalistic directors ever to get behind a camera) and deftly handled. Overall, really a great piece of film, in case you didn’t know.

Week 13: The Hunger. Vampire movie? David Bowie? Susan Serandon? Freaking BAUHAUS?!?!? This movie was made for me!

Boy, was I wrong.

And not only is that the worst cutting of Bela Lugosi’s Dead I’ve ever heard, that is legitimately the BEST part of the movie. Seriously, it’s all downhill from there. It’s not even worth going into a plot summary. Just….don’t see it. Ever.

Week 14: Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I saw this back in the day, I was probably 12, but I really didn’t actually remember it at all. I own it, because I saw it for $7 at Target and figured that it would be worth having. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you I was right! What an iconic and great action movie. The ending fight is, I think, a little unnecessarily long, but that’s pretty much the only problem I have. Robots are, after all, wicked cool. If you’re interested in the franchise, there’s actually a really solid article from a recent Wired talking about it, check it out!

Week 15: The Great Escape. The original, mind you! Like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I watched this a couple of years ago for the first time, and in another intriguing parallel, I again did not remember how freaking long this movie is. Damn. But, again, totally worth it. A brilliant ensemble cast (including Steve McQueen! He’s so dreamy!), great pacing, genuine tension throughout the film, and a really powerful ending sequence (including Steve McQueen riding across all of Europe on a motorcycle while being pursued by Nazi’s). Most excellent. A great lazy-afternoon-with-nothing-to-do movie..

Ah, the rankings, as of 5/3/2009. If I manage to watch 2 movies a week for the next month, I will get back from the brink of failure…

New Releases

  1. Milk (Week 1)
  2. Watchmen (Week 11)
  3. Gran Torino (Week 2)
  4. Push (Week 10)

New To Me!

  1. Rear Window (Week 12)
  2. The Exorcist (Directors Cut) (Week 7)
  3. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Week 8 )
  4. Hellboy (Week 3)
  5. Serenity (Week 5)
  6. Formula 51 (Week 6)
  7. The Hunger (Week 13)

Old Favorites

  1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Week 9) tied w/The Great Escape (Week 15) – Don’t make me choose!
  2. Hook (Week 4)
  3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Week 14)

Crap, I’m behind again! A little. I’m one movie behind as of Sunday, so if I can fit in two this week I can catch up.

Week 9: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I own this as part of my continuing attempt to increase my knowledge of Westerns, and it has served me very well so far. I first watched it a couple of years ago, and seeing it the second time was really interesting. The stuff I love about the film is still there, but I definitely found more flaws the second time around. Well, not flaws, necessarily, but stylistic things that are a little jarring. The best way I can describe it is that it’s surprisingly Italian. I mean, obviously, given that it’s directed by Sergio Leone and is pretty much the iconic Spaghetti Western. But there’s a level of absurdity running through it (especially in the second captured-by-the-union sequence) that I didn’t remember from my first viewing, and many scenes of people just running around. Also, it’s really, really long.

That said, the climatic ending shootout remains one my favorite cinematic duels of all time; the entire ending sequence, really, from when Blondie gives the dead soldier his cigar to the end credits is filmically beautiful and emotionally grabbing.

Week 10 was Push. Now, based on the trailer, this looked like a really bad movie. But it’s directly relevant to a game project I’m working on, so when my friends put together a lets-go-to-the-movies to see it, I was in. And I was pleasantly surprised! So a group of people who have psychic powers get drawn into a plot that they have to stop to save their own lives, and maybe kinda the world. The main flaw of the movie is trying to stuff a lot of backstory and general “world-works-like-this” info into what, at it’s core, is an action movie. There’s about 3 hours worth of material crammed into 111 minutes of screen time, which makes the pacing awkward and some of the plot hard to follow.

On the plus side, however, the acting is mostly tolerable-to-good, the actual plot is interesting and has some nice twists in it, and the on-location shooting (the movies is set almost entirely in Hong Kong) is very well done and engaging. Oh yah, and the fight choreography is (excuse my capitals) AWESOME. It’s acteally really well done, original, integrates the characters powers in interesting ways, and on at least one occasion not at all what I had expected. It’s totally worth the three minutes to check out the telekinetic gun fight, which is one of the weaker fight scenes, overall.

Week 11 was Watchmen. Hooooo boy. I think I have some things to say, but in a seperate post. For now, be satisfied with the fact that I liked it; I thought it could have been better; and that I agree with what the majority of what my buddy Pat has to say on his blog Moving Violations, specifically:

[Watchmen] is a fairly impeccable adaptation, neatly putting forth the main plot of the book with just enough mainstream sensibility to make it acceptable at the multiplex. The visuals and the performances by Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are alone enough to recommend the film. Is it the best possible film version of Watchmen? No. By hewing so closely to the text and compromising the dark, almost nihilistic tone of the conclusion, Snyder undermines his own achievement and makes the film much less than it could have been.

So, Rankings! As of 3/23/09:

New Releases

  1. Milk (Week 1)
  2. Watchmen (Week 11)
  3. Gran Torino (Week 2)
  4. Push (Week 10)

New To Me!

  1. The Exorcist (Directors Cut) (Week 7)
  2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Week 8 )
  3. Hellboy (Week 3)
  4. Serenity (Week 5)
  5. Formula 51 (Week 6)

Old Favorites

  1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Week 9)
  2. Hook (Week 4)

A quick note: I have been doing well. Week 7 was a screening of the Directors Cut of The Exorcist at the Harvard Film Archive. Week 8 is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both deserve more commentary, but I am unfortunately running off to Dreamation and don’t have the requisite time. I will say that Exorcist is a very good film, but I find it a little dated, and not for me as an audience member; and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind appeals so strongly to my hopeless romantic side that I can’t find anything to criticise about it, which I suppose is a bit of a criticism in itself.

So, here’s the current rankings, as 2/19/09:

New Releases

  1. Milk (Week 1)
  2. Gran Torino (Week 2)

New To Me!

  1. The Exorcist (Directors Cut) (Week 7)
  2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Week 8 )
  3. Hellboy (Week 3)
  4. Serenity (Week 5)
  5. Formula 51 (Week 6)

Old Favorites

  1. Hook (Week 4)

I’ve already started to wobble a little bit, but I have managed to fulfill my movie quota for the last three weeks.

Week 4: Hook

Ah, a classic. Some friends and I arranged a movie night featuring this Oscar-nominated update of Peter Pan. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend it enough. Maybe it’s just where it fell in my childhood, but I have an honest love for the film, not least because Rufio is so Emo and Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook is so very, very Goth. It warms my heart.

Also, it was released in 1991, falling right in the heart of the time when non-digital visual effects were at their technological peak. Movies from the early 90s that could afford it look so much better than the first wave of CGI that started in the mid-90s (Jurassic Park, for example). The crazy Lost Boys camp, the Pirate town, the Croc Clock, Hook’s Ship…all of that physical scenery really lends a beautiful look to the film.

So, 7 out of 7 detachable hooks for Hook.

Hook at IMDB. Trailer.

After Hook, I failed at seeing something in that next week, what with a weekend trip to NYC and some epic logistical failures involving the city of Cambridge. Yesterday, however, I managed to double up on movies, fulfilling my challenge obligations. They are still counted per week, though, to keep things easy.

Week 5: Serenity

Yes, I’ve seen Firefly. I think it’s pretty sweet, but I wouldn’t define myself as a browncoat. My friend lent me the DVD of Serenity, which I didn’t catch in theatres, and it seemed appropriate to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

I liked it. I mean, I know the characters already, so it was nice to “see” them again, if you know what I mean. The plot is pretty solid, a lot of the dialogue is good, there are some great moments. I thought that the total awkwardness between Mal and Annoura was a little overdone.  Kaylee continues to be one of my favorite fictional characters from anywhere, ever. And I actually really liked the Operative, he has enough complexity that he was interesting, even while keeping on task as the major adversity for the plot.

I dunno how it comes off to people who aren’t already fans of the IP, but I also dunno why anyone who wasn’t already at least aware of the Firefly universe would see it, so thats a wash.

Speaking of, why does Wash die? It makes no dramatic sense, compared to the other options if one of the crew has to go. Weird.

Overall, 3.5 out of 5 incomprehensible Chinese curses.

Serenity at IMDB. Trailer.

Week 6: Formula 51

I’m not going to lie – I chose this to watch because it’s the shortest of the movies on my stack of things I have that I haven’t watched, and because I knew from the outset that I wouldn’t have to pay a lot of attention to it.

It features Samuel L. Jackson as a kilt-wearing genius chemist trying to get the most money he can from a British crime syndicate for the formula of a new wonder drug he’s developed, which is apparently 51 times as potent as cocaine.

Um, it’s not very good. You should watch these clips, to demonstrate how not good it is.

And, the most awkward rave scene ever:

Actually, the cinematography and visual style are pretty good, for a frenetic caper movie. And the movie does transcend merely bad to become “You HAVE to see this” celebratory awful, so it has that going for it. But, um, see Snatch instead, if you have the choice and want to watch something that doesn’t make you dumber.

1 out of 9 kilt-wearing Jacksons.

Formula 51 at IMDB. Trailer (you should watch the trailer).

So, here’s the current rankings, as 2/8/09:

New Releases

  1. Milk (Week 1)
  2. Gran Torino (Week 2)

New To Me!

  1. Hellboy (Week 3)
  2. Serenity (Week 5)
  3. Formula 51 (Week 6)

Old Favorites

  1. Hook (Week 4)

So I have a resolution. Which I made over New Years. It was not, however, conciously framed in my mind as a New Years Resolution.

I love film, but I never watch movies, for various (mostly lame) reasons. Mainly, I always prioritize other things over watching a movie, because “I can always watch that later”…and then I never do. So, in 2009, my goal is to watch 52 movies in 52 weeks.

The rules:

  • One movie a week. If I miss a week, I’m allowed to double up the next week, but if a month goes by in which I haven’t watched 4 films, I have failed.
  • All feature-length films count, even if I’ve seen them before!
  • Only feature-length films count, no shorts or TV or anything. Unless there’s some kind of festival or something. I’ll be the judge of any edge cases that come up.
  • I have to watch it in one sitting. Usually not a problem, but we just got a DVD player in the break room at work, and we’ve been watching Super Troopers in 30-minute installments. Hilarious film, but doesn’t count.

Also, I plan to keep a vague ranking of the films, both to track what I’m watching and to provide content for the blog (about time I did that, huh)! There’s three categories: New Releases, New To Me, and Old Favorites. Pretty self-explanatory, yes? New Releases just means that I see it in the first run in theatres.

Rankings are based on my whim. Higher is better.

So, here’s the current rankings, as 1/16/09:

New Releases

  1. Milk (Week 1)
  2. Gran Torino (Week 2)

New To Me!

  1. Hellboy (Week 3)

Old Favorites – none yet

Wish me luck!