Thursday, July 14, 2011

At the Movies - 10+ Favorites

At the Movies - 10+ Favorites

I like the suspension of belief, suspension of critical judgment that the movies allow. I'm free to form new ideas, new thoughts, and new associations. Movies can be viewed in the strict vein of the story line, in the strict visual presentation, but more often than not they boil down to specific archetypes.

Fantasy, science fiction and horror are my favorite genre. My Top 10 list, not in a specific order, is filled with good examples. You might notice a lot Ridley Scott and Tim Burton and plenty of animated work in my list. Scott and Burton provide rich back-drops, strong visual presentation and terrific soundtracks as a stage for their stories. Technology has allowed many new movies to be bigger, louder, faster… but older movies with solid plots and strong acting are still the most compelling. 

Where early literature had stories that pitted Man against Man, Man against Nature, or man against God, modern themes explore Man against Himself (or against his own inventions). What are the circumstances that cause a person to grow and change? How do you find your core beliefs, core competencies and core drivers? 

Top 10+

  1. Blade Runner – This movie has several versions in release. My favorite is the second – with Harrison Ford’s internal dialogue dropped.  Robots, androids, and replicants - what happens when a machine discovers the desire to live and begins to wrestle with mortality and morality? Priss kicks and screams when faced with her death. Ridley Scott allows Roy to die on the roof-top, releasing a white pigeon, a metaphor for the escape of the soul. The movie should stop here, and all of the re-cut, re-release and variations focus on a less important ending (the escape of the romantic couple). Pinocchio always want to be a real boy.
  2. The Exorcist -- clash of Scientific and Occult - where science falls short and the only solution is the ultimate sacrifice. New edits of this movie, now that censorship has relaxed, make the movie much scarier. 
  3. 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later – Many of my top movies fall into the post-apocalyptic genre (The Day After Tomorrow, Road Warrior, etc.). Some might put this movie into a zombie genre. The trigger event: a bunch of environmentalists that break into a lab to set free experimental animals. Of course, the unintended consequence is the release of a powerful virus. What happens when society is boiled down to the basic idea of staying alive? 28 Days and Aliens, much like Night of the Living Dead cut off all avenues of escape and start applying pressure. Relationships form and break quickly as pressure and stress are applied. 28 Days and 28 Weeks are very scary because they are intensely personal, because the focus on survival at the individual level. Shaun of the Dead is a fun horror-comedy, if you think horror can be fun. 
  4. Alien Series -- Man as a small part of the universe, monsters (both alien and human) maternal instinct, ulterior motives of the scientific (military?) community. 
  5. Up! -- Personal burdens that we take up can keep us from living life to the fullest. It's very hard for me to watch this movie.  
  6. Being There -- Peter Sellers, God-like simplicity, and yes, I like to watch. The Jerk with Steve Martin has not convinced that it is a see the world as a child, or as an innocent tale. Navin Johnson is not Chancy Gardiner, but two super-talented comedians take on these roles with important messages.   
  7. Tim Burton: Sweeney Todd (2007); Corpse Bride (2005); Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005); Big Fish (2003); Planet of the Apes (2001); Sleepy Hollow (1999); Mars Attacks! (1996) Ed Wood (1994); The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Batman Returns (1992) Edward Scissorhands (1990) Batman (1989) Beetlejuice (1988). Some Burton movies miss - Dark Shadows and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure are both terrible. But Alice in Wonderland is a beautifully rendered, Mars Attacks! stands as a unique perspective and Big Fish is an amazing, fanciful story. 
  8. Central Station -- a modern Jesus parable, exploration of Brazilian culture. It's weird that Amazon has only "1 left is stock"... and the price is $47 (!). 
  9. Clint Eastwood -- Pale Rider, Unforgiven, Good Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, Hang'em High. Eastwood as the Good Guy, the bad guy and the Avenging Angel. The Dirty Harry series spurs discussion of conservatives and liberals in San Francisco - still relevant today. 
  10. The spaghetti western -- Presentation of good guys, bad guys, racism, women as property, class-ism, and greed. Spaghetti westerns provide the foundation for the classic Eastwood westerns. Firefly the TV series hit on many of these same themes as does Star Trek and Star Wars and the TV series Defiance.
  11. Star Wars 1-6 -- Good v. Evil, Redemption. The spaghetti western in space. Firefly (#12) falls into this genre. 
  12. Frankenstein, Dracula, Metropolis (30's horror, Romanticism and evolution to modern vampire/werewolf stories). Before the monster role changes from evil killer to misjudged victim of science, early horror was dark, romantic and scary.  Metropolis - the 1927 version of a robot combined with political allegory, nice. 

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