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Archive for August 2010

films that defined us

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I was asked by Marc from the awesome blog Go, See, Talk! to participate in this awesome blogathon: Films That Defined Us.  Man, these are the best things to think about.  Everyone remembers the movies that touched us as kids, movies that we could watch all day long on a Saturday, movies that we’ll always consider special.  My list plays directly off the word define.  I tried to choose movies that I not only enjoyed but movies that shaped the person I am today – or influenced future movie viewing habits.

8 genres, 8 movies.  Ready, set, go!

8. Drama: Apollo 13 (1995)
This is one of the first “adult” movies I remember watching and I thought I was soooo cool to get to see it (I was probably 6 or 7…)  Being already fascinated with space travel (thanks to Star Wars) this raised it a whole ‘nother level – this baby actually happened, it’s history.  Still a favorite movie and a must-see – annnd I still think it should have won Best Picture… (sorry Braveheart).

7. Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
I grew up watching and loving musicals but this was my favorite.  Somewhere between tapping the Tapioca and quirky, kidnappin’, Chinese women I became obsessed with this nonsense.  Today, while it’s since been replaced by West Side Story as my fav, I still know every lyric, I still love Mary Tyler Moore and John Gavin, and it still makes me want to dance.  I would cite it as the biggest influence in my musical-loving life.

6. Animation: Mulan (1998)
I dare say that this movie “defines” me more than just about any other movie because I used to pretend to be Mulan. It also inspired the martial arts side in me to come alive.  I now have a black belt and that passion began sometime while watching this Disney chick kick Hun-trash.  In the animation genre, I’d have to say that there are many that surpass (yeah, Pixar happened), but it’s still a lot of fun.

5. Thriller. Kind of: Rear Window (1954)
And so begins my Hitchcock obsession.  And a love for Jimmy Stewart.  I can’t even remember how old I was when I first saw it but it always stuck with me (and made me never want to watch Perry Mason…)

4. Adventure/Comedy/Romance/Everything: The Princess Bride (1987)
Man, what genre does this film fall under anyway?  It’s got “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” Anywho, this is where I learned to quote movies.  “Anybody want a peanut?” and “Have fun storming the castle!” I used on a daily basis.  It also gave birth to an undying admiration for sword fighting.  Whatever genre it may fall under, it’s made for every kid, teen, and adult.

3. Sports: Hoosiers (1986)
Favorite sports movie of all time.  Bball is also my favorite sport and every time I watched this, I’d want to get out and play.  So you could say it helped improve my ballin’ skills.  Basketball is still very important to me.  As for its genre, it’s simply the best out there.

2. Classic: On the Waterfront (1954)
This one came later on (as in just a few years ago), but has nonetheless made its mark on my life.  This is where I really got the whole classic-movie-gig.  Though I already wanted to marry Cary Grant, this movie made me want to watch absolutely anything made before 1960.  It has defined me by helping me discover the thrill of classics.

1: Sci-fi/Adventure: Star Wars (A New Hope) (1977)
There it is.  The king.  I must have watched the original trilogy of SW over 100 times in my childhood.  I used to pretend to fight with lightsabers and play with my brother’s toy Millenium Falcon.  I had no idea  a movie could be so wonderful and thought there was nothing parallel.  My perfect movie.

Thoughts?

Written by laurenthejukebox17

August 13, 2010 at 3:00 am

hey guys…

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Sorry everyone, I’m in the process of moving so I won’t be posting for a few weeks. I apologize for the delay but things happen, you know? I’ll be returning as soon as possible. I’m still writing and keeping my notes handy for upcoming posts (like Inception – which I FINALLY saw. score.) Thanks for the patience!

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August 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm

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Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

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Attack of the Clones picks up ten years after little Ani Skywalker became Obi Wan Kenobi’s padawan learner.  The galaxy is on the brink of a civil war.  There are still Sith lords on the loose, and star systems are threatening to leave the Republic.  After multiple assassination attempts on Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), team Anakin (who’s no longer a baby-faced kid but an angsty nineteen/twenty something year old – played, well, pretty awfully by Hayden Christensen) is on Padme’s detail and Team Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) leaves to investigate the who and what behind the assassination attempts.

Anything else?  Oh yeah.  Anakin and Padme fall in love.

While Attack of the Clones is leagues ahead of Phantom Menace in most respects… it still has two issues.  Just two – no big deal, right?  Wrong.  Those two things are sort of, like, central to the entire prequel trilogy.  They’re really unfortunate things to mess up on:

Number 1?  Yeah.  Anakin.   I’m not sure who’s more to blame, Christensen or George Lucas.  Hayden aside, what kind of character do we have?  Some idiot who complains all the freaking time about things like sand and life being super unfair.  Unfair?  This is coming from a nobody who was literally brought out of the boonies to become an incredible somebody – all out of the goodness of a Jedi master’s heart.  Man, I wish he’d shut up.  I’ll give him some things, though.  I like him all right when he’s with Obi Wan.  His recklessness and cocky attitude are fitting and keep Obi in check.  I really like their relationship, actually.  (“If you spent as much time practicing your saber techniques as you did your wit you would rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.” “I thought I already did.” “Only in your mind, my very young apprentice.”)

Number 2?  That freakin’ romance.  Natalie Portman’s much better this time around, but I just couldn’t buy their relationship.  Zero chemistry.  And really, why the heck is she attracted to someone who’s so whiny and unlikeable anyway?  Right, I too get turned on by sandpeople slaughterin’ macho men… ?  She started out fine with her initial older sister-like disdain for Ani and the I-think-you-should-shut-up-kid look, but the next minute they’re frollicking in the grass.  Sheesh, man.  It’s all pretty dismissable, except the whole grab-a-quick-kiss-on-a-rhino’s-back thing. Now that really got me laughing.  Could you get any cheesier?

With those major bits out of the way let’s get to the good bits.

Love the Jar-Jar shut-down.  But did anyone else notice that he was the one who granted Palpatine emergency powers?  So he’s responsible for every… nevermind.  Limited Jar Jar is good.

This installment is full of “aha!” moments.  Such as…

  • Jango Fett is a stormtrooper.  Sorta.  At least, they all look like him.  Like father, like son – he too was a bounty hunter.
  • With that – stormtroopers used to be good!  The clones were on our side in The Clone Wars.
  • Owen and Beru get screen time.  Owen’s actually Anakin’s step brother through Shmi’s second (first?) marriage.  Great choices, they look like their future selves.
  • Death star plans? Yessss.

Being the SW nerd that I am, I dig any freaking second on other star systems.  Kamino, Coruscant, not s’much Tattooine, Geonosis, and Naboo (I’d live there!)  The galaxy-expansion is very exciting.  I’m also totally into the political intrigue that went behind the birth of the Empire.

I’m not gonna lie, I get a major adrenaline rush when all those jedi rush out with their lightsabers on Geonosis.  It’s the first time there has been more than three lightsabers present at any given time in the franchise, so that was freaking legit.  This is the golden age of the jedis – to see them in action is such a thrill.  It’s also pretty great to see Mace Windu (Sam’s the man L. Jackson) kick major trash.  The Yoda (Frank Oz) battle is pretty sweet too, what a mean green fighting machine.  Frankly though, I prefer his throw things at you with eyes closed approach better than lightsaberin’ it up.  He flips around so much, you’d think he could just chop his legs off being so small but whatev.  Yoda rocks no matter what.

Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is pretty sweet, though Maul still rocks the ceiling off.  My personal favorite aspect of AotC is Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan.  What a dog, he’s jumping out of buildings, getting in more bar fights, and talking back to his apprentice.  A great character, he is.

The redeeming factors outweigh the major flaws.  This is a much better movie than Episode I, but I think it’s weaker regarding the bigger picture.  After watching Revenge of the Sith where Hayden isn’t quite so bad, if only he could’ve just been likeable in this one… it would have saved the entire trilogy.  If Anakin and Padme had been believable together in this one, Ep. III would make much more sense.  It’s the weakest link; it doesn’t tie the two together like it should.  Thank goodness for kick-A lightsaber battles. 7/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

August 7, 2010 at 11:34 am

Quiz Show (1994)

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It’s the late ’50s and geeky Herb Stempel (John Turturro) is on a winning streak with popular quiz show Twenty One.  Quick rundown of the show:  There are two contestants, one returning champ and one unlucky opponent.  They meet briefly with host Jack Barry (Christopher McDonald) at the start of the show before being separated and sent to their own hot ‘n’ sweaty isolation booths.  During play neither contestant can hear the opposition nor see their total points.  Barry presents the category for the round and each player takes turns answering questions from that category.  They may choose any point value from 1-11 and the first to twenty-one wins.  It should also be noted that the questions, when not in play, are kept in a secure bank vault.

But when ol’ Herbie stops bringing in the ratings, producers Dan Enright (David Paymer) and Albert Freedman (Hank Azaria) search for a new champ.  New contestant: earnest lookin’ college professor Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) son of Mark Van Doren (Paul Scofield) a renowned poet.  To ensure the smooth departure of Herbert and the big arrival of Charles, they ask Herbert to take a dive.  Not just take a dive, but fail miserably and embarrassingly.  Q: Academy Award winner for Best Picture 1955? A: On the Waterfront, Herb must reply – even though Marty is one of his favorite movies.  Why would asking Herbert to lose of his own accord even be applicable?  Oh wait, turns out those questions aren’t quite so sacred as the public thought and turns out that Stempel has been fed the answers all along.  He reluctantly agrees to bow out, but only if Enright will extend further television opportunities outside of the quiz show.

They try to offer the same gig to Charles… but this too-good-to-be-true hero has a conscience, darn it.  However, regardless to Charles’ initial aversion to cheating, they plant a question that Charles already knew the answer to.  And he knew that they knew that he knew the answer.  It’s a lot harder to exercise integrity on National TV, eh?  He answers correctly.  The new champ has been named and Charlie reaches stardom in the blink of an eye.  The public adore this squeaky clean, ideal, all-American man.  Herb disappears into the void of obscurity.  Somewhere between wishing for a new car, wanting to getting his teeth capped (he probably should have taken care of that one), and hoping that Enright would hold tight on his end of the deal he should have realized it wasn’t the greatest idea to bet his money away.  Complaining to your former boss will only get you so far.  No one cares about Herb Stempel anyway, he’s old news.

Then Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow), a young but talented lawyer, comes along.  After hearing rumors of rigged game shows, he opens an investigation of Twenty One.  He meets with Stempel, he meets with NBC producers, he develops a friendship with Van Doren.  Turns out he’s stumbled on dynamite.

I totally dig this kind of stuff.  I feel about this the same way that I feel about Shattered Glass. It doesn’t just document an interesting scandal, it captures a time in history.  “It’s television.”  The controversy was certainly enough to keep our attention but director Robert Redford took it a step further and showed us a life.  It delves into Van Doren’s relationship with his father (ahh, Paul Scofield!) as well as interesting points on Jew/Gentile winners and losers.

Quiz Show was nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.  Here are what make it the bee’s knees: The acting is spectacular.  Hank Azaria and David Paymer are my two particular favorite performances but the selling ticket is Paul Scofield, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  Ralph Fiennes should also be credited who managed to embody this character with style, likeability, and emotional depth.  Also, have you ever seen so many cameos?  Martin Scorcese?  Barry Levinson?  Douglas McGrath?  Even if the acting wasn’t solid, this sharp script could make Megan Fox seem almost credible.  Lastly, you can almost feel Robert Redford walking through the set.  He leaves his mark in the most positive light.  It’s a film that wouldn’t be the same without his magical touch.  The only negative thing I have to say is perhaps geared towards its long running time.

It’s thought provoking and intelligent – a must see. 9/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

August 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

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Much like Blackmail, The Lodger looks and feels like a Hitchcock piece.  But The Lodger is even better.

It’s about a series of murders committed by the neighborhood’s Jack the Ripper type killer called “the Avenger.”  Seven golden-haired girls have already bit the dust and the culprit is still at large.  Then, at the Bunting residence, a new tenant (Ivor Novello) arrives interested in their room for rent.  He’s very reserved, pays in advance, and is oddly frightened by golden-haired lady pictures  donning the walls.  Then, after first glance of golden-haired daughter Daisy (June Tripp… though apparently her screen name is simply “June”), this duo are instantly attracted to one another.  (There is no short supply of golden-haired chicks floating around, hence the periodic “To-night ‘Golden Curls'” memo – where, in fact, the blondies attempt to hide their golden locks for fear of being labeled as potential victims).

Daisy’s policeman beau Joe (Malcolm Keen) is assigned to the Avenger case and is definitely into Daisy’s new interest.  One evening Mrs. Bunting (Marie Ault) catches the lodger sneaking out in the middle of the night and the next morning another dead golden-haired girl is discovered – around the corner from their home.  Could the Avenger be the lodger? (he does have a name, by the way – Jonathan)

The Lodger is an excellent silent ranking in my top 3 early Hitchcocks.  It’s suspensful and excellently sets an apprehensive mood.  Our leading lady is an interesting character though at times a little much.  The other actors are quite good, particularly Ivor Novello.  The musical score (though better than Champagne) felt like the same three themes on repeat, but at least it was applicable.  Where history is concerned, this is the true molding for the master’s future career as it is his earliest to have survived in its entirety.  All in all a really great piece of work. 8/10

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August 3, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Posted in 1920s, drama, movies, mystery

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quote-of-the-week #7

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How do you explain school to a higher intelligence?

~Elliott, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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August 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm