Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Drink Your Milkshake

Brian and I pulled one of our classic triple-features at the theater yesterday. I've been paying for it all day today by doing an ungodly amount of homework, but it was well worth it. We started off the day with There Will Be Blood... and was there. But I'll get back to that. After that we saw the Academy Award-nominated short films, both live-action and animated. The live-action flicks were all so-so, begging us to utter the question, "This is the creme de la creme of twenty-five minute movies?" It's not that any were bad. In fact, they were all very well done. A couple were even very funny, but there just wasn't much energy. No spark. Call me an ugly American, but my favorite was the only English-language work--a western entitled "The Tonto Woman." Could have used some editing to make it tighter. However, when it comes to Oscar, my money's on "The Mozart of Pickpockets," a cute little French film about a cute little French thief... and two larger, older, bumbling ones.

Fueled by popcorn and smuggled Jimmy Johns sandwiches (frantically acquired two blocks away between shows), we made it to the animated shorts. These were much more entertaining and artfully rendered. Brian and I agreed on a Russian film created to look like a moving Impressionistic painting entitled Moya lyubov (the first part is linked below), but I wouldn't be surprised if a new rendition of "Peter and the Wolf" were the winner. Honestly, I could sleep fine knowing any of these won, especially since the Academy Awards don't matter that much anyway. I enjoy watching them and playing along at home, but we all like what we like, non? Oh, and keep on the lookout for the French short "Even Pidgeons Go to Heaven." It's like watching one of those Disney/Pixar shorts before Finding Nemo or Cars, except that the ending is akin to Nemo getting eaten in front of his father. Very funny.

2007 has been a banner year for film. I've truly loved a lot of movies to come out in the previous 12 months (plus a little, since it's February and all), and what's best is that I've enjoyed a range of genres more than in the past. I consider my appreciation of films to be varied in nature, and although I ultimately side with the critics when it comes to my absolute favorites, I have a secondary list of an additional 10 films (that's Top 15, people) from 2007 which really struck me, and they cover action, family flicks, and straight up comedy.

Top 5 Movies of 2007

1. There Will Be Blood
Just when I thought there was no more room in the great films list for last year, I finally managed to see this one. It blew me away. Not only is Daniel Day-Lewis undoubtedly a better actor than cobbler, little Paul Dano manages to stand up to him just fine. I think he should have been nominated for best supporting actor, but none of those Hollywood types seem to care what I think. Brian and I left the theater with completely different themes in our heads. He saw it as a statement about where the industrialization of oil has taken us since the turn of the last century, and I saw it as a character study on the Devil. When I got home, I looked up some other opinions, and I quite like the comparisons to Citizen Kane. I think we're all right. This film truly works on so many levels, I'm willing to use a cliche like that to explain. Paul Thomas Anderson's inspiration in Kubrick is both obvious and respectfully beautiful (this coming from a true Stanley fan), and Jonny Greenwood's score is finely integrated into the story. All hail the genius that is Radiohead (again, always, forever and ever). By the way, the great new way of letting someone know you own them (the title of this post) was taken from transcripts PTA read on the Teapot Dome scandal. Those crazy pundits of the past. On Friday I had a clear idea in my mind of my favorite movies of the year and then this one stole the number one spot, with a bullet. The rest are in no particular order.

2. No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers can do no wrong in my book. They are more prolific than any other writer-director-producer team that I can think of, though I can't think of any. They're certainly more agreeable to work with than most siblings I know. No offense to my personal kin, but I'm pretty sure we'd kill each other if we worked this closely together, and there's no way that murder scene would be nearly as cool and clean as those found in this flick. Oh, and the ending IS appropriate. For those who weren't big fans in the first place, give it a second chance some time, keeping in mind who's narrating the story. Or, read the book, because Cormac McCarthy ain't so bad, either. This was my top pick until TWBB stole its place.

3. Atonement
Absolutely beautiful. I haven't read the book yet, but writing students should be forced to read it or watch the movie in order to truly understand the power of point of view. To tell someone what this film is about would be to give it away, but suffice it to say that it's not always a lie just because you didn't tell the truth. This one should win best cinematography, hands down, and little Saoirse Ronan is the only one who could come close to giving Cate Blanchett a run for her money in the best supporting actress category.

4. Juno
Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. It's like a little piece of Arrested Development lives on in independent film land. Yay for another Minnesotan influence at the Oscars this year, as Diablo Cody truly understands what high school was like for the people who weren't any of those other people everyone remembers. I took it as a compliment when my brother said, "Not that Meaghan would ever get herself into a situation like that, but if she did, she'd be just like Juno." I'd like to think I act a little older than a 17 year-old at this point in my life, but I'm not putting any bets down. It's one of those movies that just makes you feel happy afterward, even with a few dialogical missteps. Honest to blog.

5. The Darjeeling Limited
I hold a special place in my heart for Wes Anderson. After what I consider a minor slip with The Life Aquatic (though I would adopt Willem Defoe), he's right back in full force with another dysfunctional family film. Anyone who can pull off three brothers carrying their emotional baggage in the form of chic Louis Vuitton matching luggage is okay by me. My theory about Anderson is that people with families who really are happy in their Christmas cards just don't connect in the same way as the rest of us. And come on, the Kinks, man.

The next 10 are my other top movies of the year. Numbers 6 and 7 barely missed the Top 5 cut-off and the rest are in no particular order.

6. Zodiac
Most disturbing murder scene ever.

7. The Lookout
Joseph Gordon-Levitt just can't seem to stay away from crime.

8. Bridge to Terabithia
Don't be fooled by the poor marketing--if you liked the book, you'll like the movie.

9. 300
Say what you want, this was just too cool to watch.

10. Waitress
There is life after cruddy prime time spots for Nathan Fillion and Keri Russell.

11. Knocked Up
Wow, is one of those things never coming out of me.

12. Ratatoille
Brian says: It's about finding out who you really are. Brett says: It's about a mouse.

13. The Bourne Ultimatum
In my opinion, this trilogy = perfect action moviemaking.

14. Superbad
Judd Apatow can do no wrong. Only Michael Cera can do the Guess Who justice... and I mean that.

15. Lars and the Real Girl
You'd think a movie with a blow-up doll as a prominent character would be awful, but you'd be wrong.

There they be. I await your responses.

P.S. Lisa, the larger print is for you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I'm a God. I'm not the God... I Don't Think

Brian and I just spent a killer weekend in western Pennsylvania with my good friend Brent, whom I met at Bemidji State. It is no mere coincidence that our trip coincided with Groundhog Day. Although Gobbler's Knob doesn't look anything like in the movie, the speech is the same and, yes, there are a load of men dressed in funny suits and top hats. Brent, Brian, and I got up at 4:00 in the morning. He lives about 20 minutes outside Punxsutawney, but it was an hour and a half in the car before we found a parking spot in town. Next, we waited in line for shuttles up to the knob, where we stood an hour in 20-degree weather (not bad, really) with approximately 20,000 other people. The entire ceremony only takes about five minutes, and being short in a crowd never means a good view, but I'm glad I did it. I certainly was part of an awfully big crowd chanting on a "large rat," as Bill Murray says.

We walked back the mile, downhill in the snow. As anyone on my broomball team can attest, I tend to fall over a lot when it's slippery, so I think twice in a mile is not so bad. Listening Coyotes, HOWL! We wandered around town, and literally, these people live with the groundhog year round. We shopped in a strip mall named Groundhog Plaza, and there are more than a dozen groundhog statues painted by various artists around town, much like the Peanuts gang hanging out all over St. Paul. There was even one in front of the place we had a buffet breakfast holding an eggtar. That's eggtar.

After a long nap, we of course continued the festivities with a viewing of the film Groundhog Day, which leads me to the Top 5 of the day:

My Top 5 Time Warp Movies of All Time (in no particular order):

1. Groundhog Day
Bill Murray is a comic genius, and this is his best work. It's hilarious, and it's poignant. This definitely falls under the category of movies I can basically recite. I am proud.

2. The Back to the Future Trilogy
Sure, this is three movies, but I do consider (for the most part) planned triologies and series to be completely lumpable, since they all fall under the same Cinemascope categories, and they complement each other so well. They're better because of the others. Besides, this is the reason everyone from our generation knows who Chuck Berry is.

3. Donnie Darko
I worry for the people who don't realize this is a time travel movie. But oh, they're out there. What's a f***face?

4. Time Bandits
One of the lesser known Terry Gilliam gilms out there. Really, 12 Monkeys belongs on this list, too. It's brilliant, but I just don't have nostalgic childhood memories of it. Plus, it doesn't have seven dwarfs... wait, how many? Anyway, it's all worth it to make it to the end to hear, "Mom...Dad...don't touch it, it's evil."

5. Time Chasers (The MST3K edition)
All I can do is picture me and my brother rolling around the living room laughing. This is beyond explanation, this is pure life experience here.