Monday, January 20, 2014

Sight and Sound Movie List - Die Steggy

Here you go. I just picked some films at random from my collection and gushed some thoughts.

Jurassic Park (1993, dir. Steven Spielberg)
My love for this movie is no secret. It is the only good film made about dinosaurs. It's also just great from beginning to end, not a scene wasted. The special effects, largely not CG, still hold up even after a decade has passed. I still find it hard to believe that the raptors are actually people in suits (also where do I get one of those suits). That first scene where Dr. Alan Grant sees the dinosaur just perfectly captures the magic of the park before it all goes to hell. 

Brazil (1985, dir. Terry Gilliam)
Oh what Terry Gilliam film to include? Brazil is my personal favorite, it's also my first so maybe I'm biased. Jonathan Pryce is the perfect protagonist for the film and Michael Palin is wonderfully cast as the mild manner torturer. Brazil doesn't take you to new worlds like its informal trilogy (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Time Bandits) but makes a bizarre world out of the reality we live in.

Spirited Away (2002, dir. Hideo Miyazaki)
I admit I'm torn about which Miyazaki film to include here. I enjoy Howl's Moving Castle more (I chose dubbed which I know is controversial but Christian Bale and Billy Crystal do a great job) but I think Spirited Away is a better movie. Miyazaki creates these entire worlds that are just fantastical. Spirited Away is the most robust and fascinating of those worlds and the animation is astounding. It is a little darker than most of his movies (not Princess Mononoke dark, but no cute and fluffy Totoro either) at times scary without losing that warmth that is so characteristic of Studio Ghibli films. 

The King and I (1956, dir. Walter Lang)
When I was a kid, I thought the scene where the King swirls Anna around the ballroom in "Shall Me Dance" was the pinnacle of romance. Scratch that, I still think that to this day. Oh yes, it is grossly stereotypical, but my sheer delight every time I watch that can almost make me forget that, if only for a few hours. This is the crown jewel of my emergency kit of VHSs I reach for when I've reached my all time low. Joining it (and thus receiving an honorable mention to this list) are Singing in the Rain and The Pirate which is this obscure Cole Porter musical with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland that one of my contains my favorite songs "Be a Clown." I'm not sure you can find the latter of films but if you love old time musicals it is worth hunting around for. 

The Lord of the Rings (2001-3, dir. Peter Jackson)
Lord of the Rings will never reach a higher pinnacle than Peter Jackson's trilogy. Thanks to the magic of New Zealand and the folks at WETA workshop it is stunning and about as entertaining as you can ever wrought out of Tolkien. If you want an example of the epic crap those movies could have been in the wrong hands just watch The Hobbit movies. Lord of the Rings was a labor of love and it shines. I'm not sure how the fates aligned to allow PJ to create such a spectacle but his films but I thank him for introducing a whole new generation, including myself, to Middle Earth. 

Big Fish (2003, dir. Tim Burton)
Some people have a movie they love for the sheer fact it is able to encapsulate a spirit so remarkably akin to their own family. Big Fish is that movie for me. The tall tales are right out of my own childhood growing up with the Stegmans, a family heralding from a circus town and forever emulating that big top spirit. It's also the last decent movie Tim Burton ever did, before he kept making the same movie over and over again with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter *shudder*. 

O Brother Where Out Thou  (1999, dir. Joel Coen)
Hands down my favorite Coen Brothers film. A) I've been a fan of the Odyssey since I was in elementary school thanks to Wishbone B) It is responsible for many modern American's affinity for bluegrass C) It's just a great movie, an amazing adventure, a visual thrill ride. 

Om Shanti Om  (2007, dir. Farah Khan)
This should be everyone's introduction to Bollywood. Then they should spend the next year of their life devouring other great films of the Indian cinema and then they should watch it again so they can get all the jokes the missed and love it all the more. It is so much fun that it worms its way even into the most skeptical of hearts. 

Life and Death of Peter Sellers  (2004, dir. Stephen Hopkins)
Geoffrey Rush is an incredible actor and it is nowhere more apparent than this movie. The movie is as zany as the man himself while dealing with some hard truths of the man's life. Peter Sellers considered himself a vessel for his characters, empty except for the fictional beings he embodied. In the same vein Geoffrey Rush becomes a vessel not just for Sellers but for everyone around him. It's a fantastic film. 

Hotel Rwanda (2004, dir. Terry George)
I have to put this on the list because it inspired me to want to join the United Nations. It was a misguided path I know but it someways you have to admire a movie with such an inspirational ability. It is heartbreaking but it is effective. 

Cashback (2006, dir. Sean Ellis)
I first saw Cashback when it was a Academy-Award nominated short because I had a crush on Sean Biggerstaff (most will know him as Oliver Wood from Harry Potter), who plays the lead. However I ended up like the short for its own merits. Basically about a art student working at a grocery store who has the ability to stop time. What follows is beautiful and the love story that dominates full length film is pretty good. Oh and lots of naked women...if you're into that sort of thing. 

The Matador (2005, dir. Richard Sheperd)
This is is an odd and final pick for my random list of movies that strike my fancy. I always say people have two favorite Bonds: their first Bond, the first actor they ever saw in a Bond movie who makes an imprint on you like a little chick to its mother and their favorite Bond, the one that after seeing far more Bond movies becomes their favorite through merit. Pierce Brosnan was my first Bond and so perhaps I have that strange chicky imprint to blame for why I like this film that if I were honest to myself, is not that great. However I find Brosnan as an aging assassin just perfect and a trainwreck I want to watch over and over. 

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