More or Less: 5 More of My Favorites
Since this blog’s inception, I’ve posted 85 times, and while that is not necessarily one of those significantly recognized numbers like, say 25, 50, or 75, I must say, I didn’t know whether or not that I would stick with this blog for as long as I have, and while I’ve at times wondered if I could continue writing for this, 85 seems like a good enough number to definitively say to myself, “Yes, this is what I’m meant to be doing, even if it’s not for a living.”
You see, even though I might not be getting paid for what I’m doing here, there’s still a significant part of me that absolutely loves the cinema, even the crap movies sometimes, and I love discussing them with people when I can. Writing this may be a somewhat of a one-way street, as I’m still not entirely certain how significant my readership is here, but the more I write about it, the more I know that my audience will grow, and even if I’m not getting quite the comments level that I probably naively expected/hoped, hopefullyThe Viewer’s Commentary has at least helped in elevating this art medium that I love so much, if even by a small amount.
Going forward, I hope to have more reviews and commentary up more often. Going through a few sites around the blogosphere, I’m inspired to stop caring so much about the scope of my posts as much as I am posting from both my gut and heart and only worry about the high concept stuff when the mood strikes me just right. This will enable me to not burn out after work in trying to do a ton of research only to decide to abandon all plans to write that night. Less pressure, more pleasure, I guess you could say.
And, so, with this, the 86th published post, I’m going to make good on that promise to myself and my readership with a follow up to my very first article on the site — Here are, in no particular order, five more films that I would consider to be, more or less, my favorites!
Inglourious Basterds – I initially fell asleep during this movie. There. I said it. I blame my friend, who was also present with me during our recent viewing of John Carter — another film I fell asleep during. (Though, with that film, it was likely the fact that it was a midnight showing after a tame hockey-game bachelor’s party — that and it was also kind of a boring flick in general.) That bad luck for me apparently rubbed off once he got married, as he was also present when we went to go see The Avengers, and I was glued for that. (Honestly, Inglourious Basterds was also a late night showing during a very hectic and busy school schedule for me, so it wasn’t great timing.) But I’m digressing.
Once I finally re-watched what is still Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film, I discovered what has to be one of the most remarkable film creations I’ve seen in quite sometime. Basically what you have here is a film that takes the concept of alternate history and turns it into the Oscar-worthy, bloody, cathartic Jewish revenge story you see before you. Basically, Tarantino’s outrage for the Nazis is poured out into this fantasy about getting a bunch of angry guys together, guys who are just plain pissed off about the evils of the Nazi empire and aren’t about to sit back and watch the more respectable soldiers go about their honorable duties. These guys aren’t worried about war crimes. They revel in the payback they dish out. Quite honestly, what the Nazis get in this film doesn’t even compare to what the Nazis did to countless others throughout the war, so Inglourious Basterds really is the least that one could do, but at least it’s a damn fine film. Also, it’s heavily implied in the film that Goebbels had a thing for Hitler, which is hilarious!
Throw in some brilliant editing, which keeps even the least action-packed scenes intense (oh, that prologue), two excellent performances from Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine, the charismatic but unrefined leader of the Basterds, and Christoph Waltz in his Oscar-winning role as the diabolical Hans Landa (destined to join the ranks of film’s greatest villains along side the likes of Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, and Hans Gruber), and a riveting subplot involving an orphaned girl named Shoushana, who has her own personal vendetta against Landa and the Nazi regime, and what you have is Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction. It might even be his masterpiece.
Sleeping Beauty – Allow me to shift gears here and admire one of the finest animated films of all time. Sleeping Beauty was a departure in both style and tone for the Disney company, as the film took on a visual style reminiscent of dark, angular Medieval tapestries, turning the film into one gorgeous-looking film that mostly departs from the more rounded, cuddly art style of previous Disney productions.
But the film isn’t all just graceful style, however, as the film would also features one of Disney’s most evil villains, the horned sorceress Maleficent. Actress Eleanor Audley’s performance is powerful and combines with the gorgeous character design to lend Maleficent a devious, regal air that’s unnervingly confident when she’s calm, commanding and terrifying when enraged.
And while the titular princess doesn’t really get much to do aside from singing a few beautiful songs, fall in love, and become a MacGuffin, Prince Philip stands as Disney’s first compelling counterpart to the princess, one that had a personality and true sense of bravery (not to mention the fact that he’s the first prince with a name). His epic battle against Maleficent is one of the most exciting animated sequences ever, and Maleficent’s transformation into the dragon easily makes it into my top 10 villain moments of all time (should I make a list, you’ll see it there).
But the true highlights of the film, quite honestly, are the three good fairies who keep watch over the princess, the ladies who rescue and aid Philip in his fight against evil. Originally meant to be identical in appearance and personality by Walt Disney himself (symbolic of harmony, perhaps?), we’re all lucky that his animators prevailed against him, insisting that each of the fairies be distinct from one another: Flora, the red-favoring bossy leader, Fauna, the green-loving ditzy Betty White of the group, and Merryweather, the feisty and pudgy blue one. Each of them, delightfully performed by Verna Felton, Barbara Jo Allen, and Barbara Luddy, respectively, is hilarious in their own way, and realistic in their characterization as loving little old women — even if they do possess wings and magic wands. Their journey is also the bravest in the film, matching or even surpassing that of Prince Philip, having raised the princess on their own for 16 years, only to have to assist the prince in her rescue, and helping to strike the final blow against Maleficent. Truly awesome stuff — and the birthday preparation scenes alone are totally worth watching the film for. Luckily for us, it’s all good stuff here, though!
Groundhog Day — I’ve already written a review on this film, so I’m cheating a bit with this, but I have to say this is, truly, one of my most favorite films of all time. Hilarious, touching, wonderfully constructed and performed, Groundhog Day takes the contrived romantic comedy genre and returns with a masterpiece. Go read the review for more of why this film makes my list!
The Tree of Life – A recent addition to my favorite films list, I’ve actually been planning on this one being my “next” review for quite some time, as far back as when I had completed my review for Batman & Robin; however, I keep getting hung up on analyzing it to death and end up feeling as though I need to watch it one more time and do a bit more meditation on Terrence Malick’s absolutely stunning and moving masterpiece. (See what I mean about the whole over thinking issue? Sheesh…)
Before I get into that inevitably philosphical review, however (now that I’ve seen it a third time within the span of two months), let me say that, basically, The Tree of Life may be one of the most moving and meaningful films I’ve ever seen. While I know that’s not necessarily a singular or even original belief, I also know that this is a very divisive film. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. I absolutely adore this film. Expect a 5 / 5 review from me. I’ll say that right now.
I found it all just completely enrapturing and spiritually touching, including all the supposedly slow stuff to be found in the prehistoric scenes, and I truly had to hold back tears each of the three times that I’ve seen it so far. I bought the film upon getting a recent raise, having only seen it once before as a rental, as I had to share it with others. There aren’t really many films, if any, that I can honestly say truly touched me to the core in this way, but Tree of Life may be the one. Your mileage, I guess, may vary, but… man… I’d say that you really need to swap out whatever may be holding you up then and just find a new one that’ll get you to where I am. (I’m not very good at car analogies, sorry.)
The Prestige – Here’s an odd one. It’s a film that I adore for its characterization of two magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) who become obsessed with each other, men whose attempts to one-up each other in their acts become an obsession that leads to mystery… and yet I keep forgetting to buy the dang film for my own collection! What is wrong with me? I honestly don’t know, as I’ve pretty much just loved everything that Christopher Nolan has put out to varying degrees ever since I saw Batman Begins, the film that urged me to branch out into the films that came before and every subsequent film that came after. (Inception very nearly went into this list and very likely will show up in a future one.)
The Prestige is a slow film, especially if you’re comparing it to the more action-focused Inception or Nolan’s Batman films, but the performances, art direction, atmosphere, and even the methodical pacing are all masterful. The film gives back the more you watch it, and even if you think you’ve figured out all the secrets, the film continues to be a fascinating examination of the lead characters. For me, there’s not really much else I can say about it at this point. Like many of my favorite films, I don’t watch it very often. I can honestly say that my faulty memory has combined with this weird quirk, but each time I do watch The Prestige, I’m reminded of just exactly why I would always consider it to be one of my favorite films. … I should actually just go ahead and watch this again. My roommate has a copy after all!…