Sunday, May 29, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 50 1/2 (Honorable Mention)

This film is one that doesn't deserve a spot on the lower or upper half of my 'Top' films list. It's kind of in its own category, in my opinion. I'll explain more below, but without further adieu:


# 50 1/2: 'Jurassic Park'

I know there are a TON of you out there that probably love this film! It was every kids wet dream, when it came to dinosaurs. It was the first film of my generation that brought these extinct creatures to life in a very realistic and fun way. This film is just pure fun and enjoyment. This is the only film in my entire list of films I've ever seen that I saw in the theater 3 times in 3 different states in the United States. I loved this film from the first time I saw it and have never fallen out of love with it. I have since passed my love of it along to my son. He watches all three of the 'Jurassic Park' films anytime I'll let him borrow the box set. He's as much of a dinosaur freak as I was. I couldn't believe the special effects in this film. It made me that much more of a freak to see what I'd only seen in books before, coming to life. It was mind blowing. The amazing thing is that the special effects still hold up today! I will watch this film anytime and anywhere. In hindsight it's kind of a kids film, but it satisfied all the dreams of the adults who saw it too. There must have been an incredible amount of time and planning put into making this, as it is just put together so well. Everything about it is spot on. I am not entirely sure why it didn't launch the careers of the two kids in it or expand the careers of the adults in it. I'm not really fond of the sequels, but I've seen them and own them all and I'll admit, they're pretty fun.... they're just not on par with the original.

The storyline involves a group taking the DNA from a mosquito trapped in amber and using it to create clones of all the major dinosaurs. They then build a park to put all of the dinosaurs in and ask some experts to come out and preview it before it opens. While on the tour, things go straight to hell as everything begins to shut down or stop and soon the dinosaurs have escaped and begin attacking the workers in the park. Everyone fights to survive and make it out alive. That's about it.

I know it's probably a little unpopular for me to say that I love a Spielberg film, but the man must be doing something right. He's won countless awards and been making popular films for decades. I like quite a few of his films and they're very re-watchable. This is just another one to add to that list. I guess I have to admit outloud that I like Spielberg films, plain and simple. Not all of them, but quite a few. This one is yet another 5 star entry for him and one that brings back fond memories everytime I see it. Not just of when I saw it in the theaters, but of my love of the prehistoric era and how cool it was to have my imagination brought to life on the screen. There have been countless knockoffs and attempts at recapturing the same magic as in this original film, but I have not seen anyone accomplish it yet. I hear rumor of a 4th one in the works, I don't know where else they could go with the storyline, perhaps if Spielberg was back on board? I kind of doubt he'd want to take a step back into that world. I think he said everything he wanted to say with it the first time around. He said it and he said it well.

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: My favorite actors and actresses (and two honorable mentions)

So, after giving you all the films I love.... I thought it might be nice to give you a short list of some of my favorite actors and actresses. This isn't too comprehensive, as I go through moods. These are the ones that consistantly stick aroun in my top spots, so that's what put them here. I've also included two 'honorable mentions'.

Why no writers or directors? Well, I'm not 100% sure why. If you're curious, I'd be happy to throw it together. Here we go!

Favorite Actors:

3) Chow Yun-Fat

Yes, I fell in love with Chow Yun-Fat like a lot of the rest of the world did.... because of Quentin Tarantino. I'm so happy that he brought him to the public's attention. He's an amazing talent and I keep hoping he'll work with Quentin someday soon. It has been said about Chow Yun-Fat that, "Give him a gun and he's a hero. Give him two and he's a god." That kind of sums it up. He is the master of the John Woo double gun action flick. Funny thing is that he started out being afraid of guns. Therefore, if you watch some of his early films with John Woo, you'll see him flinch, close his eyes or turn away whenever he's firing a gun. It's kind of funny to see in retrospect. Either way, he has established himself as not just an action hero, but a worthwhile actor in several genres and languages. If you haven't seen a film with him in it yet, take this as a gentle push to go and do it now. You won't regret it.

2) Bruce Willis

I'm not alone in my love of Bruce. He's an extremely popular actor and has been that way for decades. He has conqured several different genres, but his main bread and butter has always been action. (after a solid career in comedy-ish stuff.) In my mind, Bruce Willis is the American Chow Yun-Fat or vice/versa Chow Yun-Fat is the Chinese Bruce Willis. They mirror each other in a lot of ways. I am just happy that they're both working steadily and seem to be aging well and finding roles that match their advancing years. I am sure Bruce has years of acting to come and will probably end up like my #1 actor of all time. 'Hudson Hawk 2' anyone?

1) Jack Nicholson

I've already spoken to my love of Jack. He's maybe not quite the superstar he used to be, but he's still a legend and has an amazing catalog of work that he's done over the years. I know that just by saying his name people get a good impression. (Well, I hope it does.) I don't know what the first film was that I saw him in, but I think what cemented my love of Jack was as The Joker in Tim Burton's 'Batman'. The film hasn't held up extremely well over the years, but I still love it and The Joker. I have since seen a lot of his films, the majority of them I would say, and it just made me appreciate his work that much more. Even if you don't love everything he's done, like I do.... you can't deny that his work in the 70's and early 80's stands as some of the most amazing acting on film. End of story.

Favorite Actresses:

3) Gwyneth Paltrow

I know, I know.... not a popular choice, right? But this is my list damn it and I love Gwyneth. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is about her that I love so much, but I just can't get enough of her films. I own a lot of them and will watch a film based on her being the star. She's not a big surprise for a top 10 kind of list. She's an award winning actress who has an impressive resume and pedigre. She can do comedy as easily as drama and seems to just love working, I respect that a lot. When an actor or actress does it because they love what they're doing vs. just for a payceck.... that says a lot. Now I want to watch one of her films.

2) Julianne Moore

Perhaps a bit more popular choice, maybe not. She is no big surprise to be on my list as she is a favorite of Paul Thomas Anderson. I, again, own a lot of her films (just like my #1 choice) and I have seen even more than I own. She's a unique actress that can play beautiful or ugly, funny or serious.... she is a jill of all trades. I remember when I saw her for the first time in Robert Altman's 'Short Cuts'. She overshadowed almost the entire rest of the cast and after that, I was hooked. I look forward to seeing what else she ends up doing during her career. She's got a lot of talent and never ceases to amaze me.

1) Patricia Arquette

This one is a no brainer. I have never made any bones about who my favorite actress is. Ever since 'True Romance' I was in love with Patty. I've seen pretty much every film she's ever made and own over half of them. I love that she's crossed over into TV by doing 'Medium' and I was so happy that it did well. I have not seen it as regularly as I'd hoped I would when it started. I guess I figured it would be a backlog of stuff to watch of hers if I ever ran out. It's been on for years and has made her a household name and I couldn't be happier for her, she deserves it. She comes from a talentedy, although strange, family. She's not your typical leading lady and I think that's one of the reasons I like her so much, she's not typical. There are so many cookie cutter actresses out there that it's nice to see one make it that isn't like everyone else. I hope that you take some time to get to know her work if you're not already familiar with it, she's amazing.

Honorable Mentions:

Daniel Day-Lewis

I have to admit, he's on this list based only on 2 films, 'There Will Be Blood' and 'Gangs Of New York'. Those two performances are some of the greatest ever committed to film. I have seen only 1 or 2 of his other films, but if I never see any other of them.... I would be satisfied with just these 2. He has a way of transforming himself into someone else. He immerses himself so deeply in the roles that he's virtually unrecognizable. That is an amazing feat. He deserves all the praise he's gotten over the years and I hope he continues on in this industry for as long as he wants.... he's a legend.

Charles Bronson

I can thank my friend Dennis for this entry. He once said to me in a video store that (after I said I'd never seen 'Death Wish') that once he showed me a Charlie Bronson movie, I would become addicted. He was right damn it. After I saw my initial Bronson film, I proceeded to watch 34 of his movies over the next 30 days and that's not even HALF of his catalog! The man was a machine of movie making. Granted, he had a career that spanned decades and film and TV. He is considered a legend in the industry even if his films weren't always the best. As a matter of fact, for almot the entire 80's, he made some pretty horrific garbage. Granted, I still LOVE it and I'm not alone. It's just that in the 60's and 70's he was an icon. Sadly, we lost him several years ago and it was a great loss to the film industry. Luckily he left behind a library of films to enjoy. Several franchises and some classic stories. I doubt everyone is a fan like me, but Dennis was right.... I'm addicted.

Why is she not on this list?

Natalie Portman

The girl that I predicted would win an Oscar during her career, after seeing 'The Professional'. This year that prediction came true. Yup, she's pretty amazing.

Milla Jovovich

I just thought of one other person to include.... Milla Jovovich. I LOVE the 'Resident Evil' films and every movie I see her in, I am just mesmerized. There is something about her, she is a great actress to watch onscreen and I always look forward to her next film. The End.

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: The Remaining 100 (Where's the other 50 to make it 200 total....?)

Hey kids! So it's all over and I have heard a little bit here and there about the results. The next few posts will be kind of like the 'extras' on the DVD's. The first one is the 100 films that just barely missed the cut for the 'Top 50'. Where's the other 50 to make it an even 'Top 200' list? I don't know. They're hiding, I guess. Anyway, check it out and see if some of the ones you thought should make it are on this list. They're in no particular order other than a slight alphabetical. Enjoy!

American Psycho
Bad Taste
12 Monkeys
Great Balls Of Fire!
Catch Me If You Can
A Serbian Film
National Lampoon's Vacation/ Christmas Vacation
The Dark Knight
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
The Devil's Rejects
District 9
Ed Wood
Quiz Show
American Splendor
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Dream With The Fishes
Falling Down
Fight Club
Four Weddings And A Funeral
The Fugitive
Funny Games (2007)
Garden State
Glengarry Glenross
Good Will Hunting
In The Company Of Men
Hard Candy
Haute Tension aka High Tension
High Fidelity
Hostel/ Hostel 2
How To Train Your Dragon
The Incredibles
The Iron Giant
Jackass: The Movie
Kill Bill: vol. 1 and 2
Killing Zoe
The Last Kiss
The Last Man On Earth
Let Me In
Barton Fink
Nightwatch (1997)
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Office Space
The Millenium Trilogy - Noomi Rapace
Bill Cosby: Himself
Planet Of The Apes (1968)
Leon: The Professional
[REC]/ [REC]2
The Rainmaker
Reality Bites
Hamlet 2
The Return Of The Living Dead
The Ring
Rosemary's Baby
Plan 9 From Outer Space
The Terminal
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Grapes Of Wrath
Brokeback Mountain
SLC Punk
Visitor Q
Saving Private Ryan
Down By Law
Inglorious Basterds
To Kill A Mockingbird
American History X
Halloween 2 (2009)
What Lies Beneath
The Woodsman
The Sixth Sense
Arsenic and Old Lace
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Batman (1989)
The Wrestler
The 5th Element
Resident Evil films
Zack and Miri Make A Porno
As Good As It Gets
Death Wish
Stranger Than Fiction
Saving Private Ryan
The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 1

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions, especially the last 10 films.)

READ ME!: This is the final posting for this list. This is, in my opinion, the 1 film of all time. You are all entitled to your own opinions and this is merely mine. I hope you continue to read this blog, as new posts are yet to come and I may even have a revised list posted some day soon!


# 1: 'Eraserhead'

Before I found out about Rob Zombie. Before I knew who Quentin Tarantino was. Before Eli Roth, Kevin Smith or Paul Thomas Anderson.... there was David Lynch. He is one of the few people on this list that I would call a true artist. He's a musician, a painter, a writer, a director, a producer, an actor, a jack of all trades.... there isn't one thing that David Lynch hasn't done or won't do and he's always looking to continue growing. I respect that so much and ever since I saw 'Pretty As A Picture' the documentary about the making of 'Lost Highway', my respect grew even more for him. I also read the book 'Lynch on Lynch' and it allowed me to get even deeper into the mind of a genius, it's an amazing read. After all of that has been said and done, there is 'Eraserhead'. David Lynch's first full length feature film that took him 5 years to complete due to various causes. At one point, Henry opens a door, and Jack Nance (who plays Henry) ages 18 months between cuts. That is insane, but true. I don't know that I could ever truly explain why I love this film as much as I do. It's a student film, it's a first film, it's a low budget film, it's in black and white, it's confusing, it's not well known, it's difficult to watch for a lot of people, it's everything that a film should be while being everything it shouldn't be.... all at once. This film is part horror, part drama, part dream, part romance, part post apocalyptic scenario, part audio/visual drugs, part of everything and anything. It's like David Lynch took everything that he ever wanted to put into a film and stuck it all into just one and made it all make sense.... in a weird sort of way. From the opening of this film, you are hit over the head with an obvious queue of what to expect. Anyone who complains that they didn't like it after watching a big chunk of it, why did you continue watching in the first place? It's not a big secret what this film is going to be.

The first time I saw this film, I sat in front of the TV so incredibly mesmerized by what I was seeing that I didn't realize that I had started drooling on myself. It was like someone had given me some kind of serious drug that just zoned me out. When I snapped too, I hadn't missed a beat with what was going on in the film, I just realized the power that it held over me. By the time it was over, I wanted to start it over again. It's like a ride that you just don't want to end. It's one that I try and take every year or so, but one that I don't overuse for fear of it losing it's impact.... so far, that hasn't happened. It's just as potent today as it was when I first saw it. The only thing that bums me out is that I didn't see it sooner. It's been out since the late 70's and was just waiting for me to find it.

What in the hell is the story? You might be asking. Well, David Lynch has said that it's a visual representation of how he felt moving to a new city and the alienation he felt. It's a meditation on loneliness and confusion. The actual story that's played out on the scree is something like this: (taken from "Is it a nightmare or an actual view of a post-apocalyptic world? Set in an industrial town in which giant machines are constantly working, spewing smoke, and making noise that is inescapable, Henry Spencer lives in a building that, like all the others, appears to be abandoned. The lights flicker on and off, he has bowls of water in his dresser drawers, and for his only diversion he watches and listens to the Lady in the Radiator sing about finding happiness in heaven. Henry has a girlfriend, Mary X, who has frequent spastic fits. Mary gives birth to Henry's child, a frightening looking mutant, which leads to the injection of all sorts of sexual imagery into the depressive and chaotic mix." I kind of disagree with the notion of it having sexual imagery, well.... not entirely.

This is obviously a 5 star film, one that deserves every piece of praise that I can heap upon it. I love this film, I love the man behind the film and I judge a lot of other films based on this one. This film proves that there are original ideas out there. It proves that you don't need a big budget to make an epic. It proves that you can't give up, just because things don't always go according to plan. Sadly, Jack Nance.... Henry in the film.... passed away several years back. He was an amazing character actor who had this one chance to show the world what he could do and I'll always be a fan and I know David Lynch was and always will be. I don't expect you to see this film and enjoy it. As a matter of fact, I know that I am in the minority about this film.... I get that. But even if you don't see this film or do, but don't like it. Take away from the whole experience that keeping an open mind will allow you to experience new things and sometimes you won't be rewarded for it, but there may just be a time in the near future where you find your best friend that way. That is why this film is in my #1 position.... it gave me more than I have ever received from any other film. Thank you Jack Nance and thank you David Lynch. The End.

Side note: David Lynch has never given a solid answer as to what the "baby" is made of in the film. That may just remain a mystery forever.

Some 'Eraserhead' trivia:

David Lynch had a lot of trouble getting financial assistance from the AFI, because the script was only 20 pages long. He received a grant from AFI but after about 3 years of production, ran out of money.

The soundtrack album was dedicated " The Man In the Planet's Sister". The Man In the Planet was played by Jack Fisk, brother of Lynch's then-wife, Mary Fisk.

Jack brought his future wife Sissy Spacek to the set to hold the slate during his scenes.

Stanley Kubrick reportedly said this was one of the films he made the cast and crew of 'The Shining' (1980) watch to get in the right frame of mind.

Mel Brooks saw it and offered Lynch the chance to direct The Elephant Man (1980); Lynch accepted.

George Lucas asked Lynch to direct Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983); Lynch turned it down.

There is no dialogue for the first 10 1/2 minutes of this movie.

Poet/short story writer/novelist Charles Bukowski's favorite film. The great outsider was not a notable fan of cinema. In his roman a clef "Hollywood" about the making of Barfly (1987), he talks about meeting a famous director and his consort, based on David Lynch and Isabella Rossellini.

David Lynch refuses to say anything about Eraserhead (1977) because he wants to let viewers decide for themselves what they think it means.

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 5 - 2


This will be the final post before I reveal the #1 film. I decided that since it's the #1 film, it needed its own post. That way I can dedicate a little more time to that pick.... I just hope it's the right one! Cheers!

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions, especially the last 10 films.)

On this list, you will find instances where more than one film is listed. This is because either there was a tie or the films somehow tie in with each other and make one selection in my mind. At each occurance, I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my decision.


# 5: 'Dancer In The Dark'

A musicial, no matter how minimalistic, in my top 5?!?! Who would've thought? I am not a fan of musicals, yet a couple of them cracked my top spots. Now, both films aren't traditional musicals and have very little music in them, but they're musicals.... none the less. What sets this film apart and puts it so high on my list is Bjork. I have always been a fan of her music, even as far back as the Sugarcubes and her Icelandic jazz record.... she is a top 5 female vocalist for me. Her singing and songs lend themselves so well to the soundtrack of this film and they help to bring the story to a whole new level. She, herself, also elevates the film. She is not typically thought of an actress, but this film was made for her. She is Selma. Another thing about 'Dancer In The Dark'.... it makes me cry. Every single time that I've watched it, I've cried at the end of the film. It is so incredibly hearthwrenching and sad that I don't know how you couldn't cry. The funny thing is, even after I'd seen the film and knew the ending.... it will still just as powerful and packed the same kind of punch as it did the first time I saw it. Not too far off from my 'Blair Witch Project' feelings. A film that continually packs a wallop. Lars Von Trier, the director, is known for his bizarre storytelling, depressing storylines and gut punching endings. Every one of his films gets to me in one way or another. I can't say that I love everything he's ever done, but I have the utmost respect for him as a film maker. Catherine Denuve and Peter Stomare also lend credibility to Selma and her plight. Mr. Stomare plays against type in this film and plays a really good guy with a big heart and a deep love for Selma. He really impressed me with his turn as a nice guy in this film.... something he should do more of, I think. I think everyone was excellently cast. Something kind of unique about this film is the way it was shot. It's all done on anything but 35mm film. It also proves the point that you don't need the standard film making fare to make a landmark film. He uses this new medium to his advantage and uses it well.

This cautionary tale is about Selma. She's a single parent living in a little apartment behind her landlords home. She works in a factory with her best friend and has just agreed to play the lead in 'The Sound of Music'. The only problem is, she is going blind and it's happening quicker than she'd hoped. She is quickly running out of time to make as much money as possible to get her son an operation to avoid the same fate happening to him. Meanwhile, she's beeing wooed by a gentle and friendly man. She is struggling to not let on to her boss that she can't see and her landlord is broke and realizes that Selma has saved a fortune in money and he wants to know where she keeps it. Once he's taken her money, she has to decide what to do to get it back and get her son the operation, before it's too late. I'll just let you know that all of the rest of the films on this list are all 5 star selection and 'Dancer In The Dark' is no different. This is a film that needed to be made. It may just mark the highest point in Lars Von Trier's career. I only wish that it never had to end, so that what happens to Selma wouldn' have to happen. I guess I just never wanted her story to end.... she's just so likable and the world she lives in is so interesting to watch. Oh and the soundtrack is amazing, Bjork even has a duet with Thom Yorke from Radiohead.


# 4: 'The Fisher King'

This is yet another selection on this list of films that once was at my #1 position in the 'Top 50'. It sat there for quite a while and still remains one of my favorite films to share with people. It just never seemed to reach that wider audience outside. It's more of a cult classic than anything else. I don't know why that is.... perhaps it was too "ahead of it's time", or it was just a bit too strange for some people or maybe it just wasn't a film that people could pigeonhole so they chose to hate it instead of giving it another chance. It has an amazing cast of talent whom all fit their roles to perfection. The storyline is truly original and there are real emotions involved in this film. It deals with love, mental illness and the holy grail. It has full frontal male nudity and fire breathing horses. Despite all of that, it's still just a love story at the most basic level. What I think sets this film apart from others is the direction of Terry Gilliam. He's known for his outlandish film making and storytelling, but he handles this subject matter so delicately and with such finesse that you can hardly tell that he's even given the actors any direction at all. They are just fluid.

Jeff Bridges plays a radio shock jock that helps push an unstable man into taking a shotgun and killing people in an upscale restaraunt. Because of that, he has a mental break and leaves his job and moves in with a woman who runs a video store and he tries to start over. Meanwhile, a psychotic man played by Robin Williams, is living on the streets and is looking for the holy grail. The two soon meet and begin to eventually work together to find the grail. During the course of this all, he tries to find love for the psychotic, he also learns that the psychotic's wife was one that was murdered by the man he pushed over the edge and because of this.... he feels even more inclined to help him get back on his feet. This all sounds like a slightly off center romantic drama, but it goes so much deeper than that. This just provides a framework for all the other stuff going on in the film. You leave this film, after viewing it, as a changed person.... someone with a new perspective on life. It changed my life and I will be forever gratful to Mr. Gilliam for that. This film is a masterpiece.


# 3: 'Dead Man'

Here is another film that was at my #1 spot for quite a while. I am, generally, not a fan of westerns.... but this is so much more than that. It's been called a 'metaphysical western' and I suppose that is the most accurate description of this film. It is a slow burning candle that isn't so much about action and adventure as it is about just living in the moment and watching the candle burn. Haven't you ever just stared at the trees blowing in the wind and just kind of get lost in that moment? That is kind of like what this film is. It's a mixture of the screenwriting, the music by Neil Young, the direction, the acting and the black and white photography. Actually, the use of black and white film makes so much sense with this film. It's like looking at an Ansel Adams print brought to life. Every frame of film is something that you could blow up and hang on your wall in a frame. Everything is so well thought out and executed. I kind of wonder of this film would have had the same impact if it wasn't for the acting of Johnny Depp. He embodies William Blake and lives and breathes his life for the entire film. He is a lost soul that is thrust into a situation that he didn't wish to create and has to figure a way out of it. He is an everyman, but a fish out of water in the time he was living.

In the film, William Blake travels to the last town at the end of the line, Machine. He'd been sent a letter to accept a job there, but once he was there he found that the job had already been filled. At this time, he had spent everything he'd had to make the trip out there.... he has nothing left. This sad fact leads him to a bar where he somehow ends up being mistaken for a murderer and ends up on the run. He is alone in a place he doesn't know and is doing everything he can to stay alive, while being hunted by bounty hunters and is soon befriended by a native American named Nobody. Nobody helps to guide William Blake down the path towards being a poet with a gun and his ink was the bullets in the gun. William has to decide whether to embrace his new life or to try and reclaim what he had before. This entire film is about one man's journey to find out who he is and where he belongs. A perfect example of how a film maker can use music, dialouge and cinematography to paint with pictures. It's like seeing an emotion brought to life. I cannot get enough of this film. I have the soundtrack to it as well and it's a wonderful backdrop to think to. It just allows your mind to wander freely, just like the film does. This is not a really well known film, but I hope that this brief review gets a few more people to see it. It's well worth your time. Bring an open mind when you decide to take the journey, you won't need anything more than that.


# 2: 'Leaving Las Vegas'

(I have this film poster in my poster collection. Sadly, I cannot hang it as it was severely water damaged. Damn.)

John O'Brien was an obviously tortured soul. He wrote one book, 'Leaving Las Vegas' and then he took his own life. What he left behind was a sad tale of a man who didn't want redemption, didn't want love.... he just wanted to die. What he found along the way was love, a chance at redemption and a chance to live. This film is beautiful to me. Despite the sad pedigree that it holds, it left it's mark on me. I have since read Mr. O'Brien's book version and I can feel his pain throughout it. I am sad that he died so early in life, before he had the chance to give us other pieces of literature. I wonder what else he could have created? Perhaps it was his destiny to burn out and leave only this behind. It seems that some of the greatest and well known art in this world only became this way after the death of the creator. I don't know why that is, but it is a sad state of affairs. Regardless of all that, this film is a love letter to all of those tortured souls out there to show them that there is always another chance at life, you just have to accept it with open arms. If you choose not too, then you may just end up the same way that Ben did.... dead on a mattress with your lover left behind to wonder why you left her alone. I can't think of a more tragic fairytale than this one. It shatters my heart every time I watch it and although I can relate to the broken characters within the world created, I will never totally understand why they made the decisions they did.

In 'Leaving Las Vegas' we see the continual fall from grace of Ben. He's a former Hollywood exec, father and husband who looses everything due to alcohol. After he's been fired from his executive job and given a huge bonus check upon leaving, he decides to take that money and sell everything else he has and go to Las Vegas. The reason? To literally drink himself to death. In the first few nights of being there, he meets an escort named Sera.... S-E-R-A, Sera. They spend a good portion of the night together. When Sera returns to her pimp, she is beaten and told never to do that again. After a while, her pimp is killed and Sera is left able to do anything she wants. She runs into Ben again and they begin a relationship. He tells her point blank that she can never ask him to stop drinking. She agrees, knowning full well that he was there to kill himself. Over time, she begins to fall in love and eventually makes an attempt to stop him from drinking himself to death. He leaves her, she gets assaulted and raped. A short time later, she tracks Ben down again and he is so far gone that he's practically a zombie. What happens next is so incredibly sad, but at the same time it speaks volumes about the characters and the original author. It's the only way that this story could have ended. We're all flawed and sometimes the happy ending is not the ending we get.... so we take it the way it is and move on. No matter what the outcome.

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 10 - 6


I am thinking about posting the last 5 films, one day at a time. It would stretch the time out a bit to the "big payoff" (lol) but it might be fun? Or I might just make the #1 post be all by itelf, that way it can have a bit more focus. Let me know what you think, let your voice be heard! Cheers!

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions, especially the last 10 films.)

On this list, you will find instances where more than one film is listed. This is because either there was a tie or the films somehow tie in with each other and make one selection in my mind. At each occurance, I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my decision.


# 10: 'Sling Blade'

As I've already, just recently, posted a review of this film.... I figured taht I would give you the link to that review instead of writing a whole new one. Is that okay?

Now onto the next one. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer if you'd like!


# 9: 'House Of A 1000 Corpses'

I wrote a review for this film once, but I was never really satisfied with the way it came out. I guess this is my chance to have a 'do over' and re-write it. Now, anyone who knows me at all, knows that I have a HUGE man crush on Rob Zombie. I worship every one of his films, enjoy his music and love everything he is associated with. (Althougth his involvement on 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' seemed a bit odd.) I've already included one of his films on this list and am kind of surprised with myself that I didn't include the others. They are on my 'Top 200' films list, so I guess it's okay then. Anyway, 'House Of A 1000 Corpses' was obviously a labor of love for Mr. Zombie. It's like the philosophy of a friend of mine that says, 'A musician has his whole life to come up with his first album, that's why it's usually his best.' This film is Rob's first full length feature and I'm guessing it was something he'd been dreaming up his whole life. Granted, the films he made following this were amazing too, but some people are just keen like that. I remember reading about this for a long time before it came out. It was a long wait from the time it was actually finished until it was released. There was a time I didn't think it would ever see the light of day, but thanks to Lionsgate, it made it's way into my living room. Funny thing about this film was tht the first time I watched it my surround sound was messed up. It would get loud or soft in very odd places, so I just assumed it was part of the film. In my mind, it just showed that Rob was playing with all aspects of the film. The colors, qualities, etc.... so it didn't surprise me that the sound was strange too. It was only a short time later that I realized it wasn't supposed to be like that. Another thing about the first time I saw it, I kept thinking the entire time I watched it that I'd never seen anything like it before. I fell in love with it during the first sequence and couldn't stop thinking about it after it was over. It was an instant classic. I didn't recognize a lot of the actors in it when I first saw it, but I sure recognize them all now. I think all the characters in it are very recognizable too. Pretty much icons of the horror genre. They've become statues, toys, Halloween costumes, t-shirts, etc. they are part of the fabric of film. This film is the only film that has the distinction that I watched it 3 times in a row. The first time was just to watch it, the second two were to watch the different commentaries. The only other film to come close to this is George A. Romero's 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978). This film has obviously left a permenant mark on me.

I don't know if it's even neccessary to provide a plot for the flim, as I just assume everyone has seen it. However, that's just not the case. This is still a realitivly unknown film compared to it's sequel, 'The Devil's Rejects'. Anyway, the film involves 4 people travelling across country working on a book about odd roadside attractions. They come across a place called 'Captain Spaulding's Musuem of Monsters and Madmen'. It's actually a gas station/ chicken joint with a pseudo musuem in the back. Captain Spaulding is a rather large and sinister looking man dressed as an oddball clown. He takes the 4 through the musuem and at the last exhibit, he tells them about a killer named Doctor Satan. They become curious about this killer and seek to find the tree where he was hung, but his body dissappeared. The 4 set out to find the tree, but get rather lost in a nasty rainstorm. They pick up a pretty, but strange female hitchiker who says she can get them to the location of the tree. They end up at her home after their tire is mysteriously blown out. While in the home they meet Mother Firefly, Grandpa, Tiny, Baby (the hitchiker), RJ and the frightening Otis. They have Halloween Eve dinner with them and see the aftershow. A near fight ensues and they decide to leave. Otis and Tiny attack them on the way out and next thing they know they are being held captive in the Firefly's home and one by one they're getting tortured or killed along with an etire squad of local cheerleaders. The police begin to search for them and it seems that all hope is lost.... until they soon meet Doctor Satan. Can they survive? I'm not going to give away the ending. 5 bloody stars for sure. This is pretty much my all time favorite horror film and one that I've seen so many times that I've lost count. I can quote it backwards and forwards. I own the Captain Spaulding action figure. I even dressed as him for Halloween one year. I have a Captain Spaulding t-shirt and am always on the lookout for more merchandise. I'm hoping that someday this will get the praise it deserves or that, at least, Rob Zombie will find someone willing to put out a special edition with more extras on it. The one's on the DVD I have are pretty keen, but I always find myself wanting more. This is a must watch for fans of Mr. Zombie, horror films or just want to see something different. I will warn you, it's not for the squeemish. It is pretty intense and graphic in more ways than one. These are not nice people and although we're kind of primed to think of them as the anti-hero's, they're still bad guys who do really bad things. 'The Devil's Rejects' is an amazing follow up to this film. It's not quite as inventive, but it's really solid and one that more people can get into because it's more of a serial killer road film than a straight up horror flim. And with that, I think I've said my peace about this film.... for now.
(a trailer....)

(and another trailer....)


# 8: 'Reservoir Dogs'/ 'Pulp Fiction'

I am breaking this one place on the list to two films. I just couldn't find a way to put one ahead of the other. I love all things Tarantino and these are no exception. 'Reservoir Dogs' has been at the top of my list for a very long time and 'Pulp Fiction' has been pretty high up there too. I think that they're both films that deserve viewing by anyone who likes to watch films. I think that both of these films had an effect on film making in general and made Quentin Tarantino's career what it is today. That being said, let's get it on with each review:

'Reservoir Dogs' has a funny backstory with me. It is one of the earliest films I saw in my days of first deciding to become a film expert. I saw it on VHS with a group of friends and we all agreed that it was an amazing film. None of us really knew who anyone involved in it was, but we knew them all after the film was over. The funny thing about this film was that it was a 'Pan and Scan' version that I owned on VHS, not the widescreen version. I didn't see the widescreen version until years later. 'Pan and Scan', for those who don't know, is what they do to a full screen film when you can't see all the action that's going on. They'll blow up the picture to fit the full screen and then if something is going on in a scene that you can't quite see, they'll 'Pan and Scan' over to it. I learned to hate this method of film correction, but with this film it became a part of the experience. The first time I saw it in widescreen was when I purchased the 10th anniv. edition on DVD. It was a bizarre thing, the whole flim felt so much different. I think the word that kept coming to mind the whole time I watched it was "lonely". It felt big, empty and lonely. I haven't watched it again since I purchased the DVD and I'm not sure if it's because I wasn't in the mood or because I wasn't used to seeing it in its original format. Luckily, the DVD has both versions, so if I get desperate.... I can watch the 'Pan and Scan' version. (That makes me sad to even say that.)

This film is the film that every budding young storyteller wants to make. However, not everyone can be Quentin Tarantino.... but Hollywood spent a helluva a lot of time and money looking for the 'next' Quentin Tarantino. The plot is pretty simple: Criminals, using colors instead of names, pull a jewlery heist. When the whole thing goes south, they begin to think that there may be an undercover police officer in their midst. Everyone that survived the attempted robbery meet back in a casket warehouse. Once they get there, they begin to fight with each other in an attempt to figure out who the rat is. The whole time this is going on, we're getting the backstory via flashbacks. In the end, do they get their just deserts? You'll have to watch it to find out and trust me, you won't regret it if you do. However, you may end up with some questions at the end as to what really happened. I'm still wondering the same thing sometimes.

This Quentin Tarantino film was a part of pop culture the minute it hit the theaters. Ironically, this film I saw in the exact same theater that I saw the second listing for the #7 film on the list (not too mention, Eric Stoltz was in each of them too!) and 'Reservoir Dogs' was seen with the exact same people in the exact same room on the exact same VCR as the first selection on my #7 spot on this list. I guess it makes sense that they'd be where they are? Anyway.... like I was saying, 'Pulp Fiction' was instantly part of pop culture and still is today. It created a monster in the form of wannabe directors and writers that used his same style, formula and character bases to create their films. It also caused the Hollywood execs to buy up every 'Tarantino-esque' film they could find or anything associated with him. The market became saturated with it all. I think that's partially why I've stayed away from watching this one too often. That being said, I still love this film. Bruce Willis doesn't hurt either. I remember seeing this film in a movie theater with (you may remember him from previous blog entries) DocStout. He was pretty much the reason I went. I wasn't as well versed on directors, writers or producers at the time.... so I had no clue it was done by the same folks who did 'Reservoir Dogs'. Thankfully, he made me go to it (and several other films), because if he hadn't I may haven't had the chance to see it until much later.

The flim is a collection of scenes that tie together into a few stories about a selection of people that all connect to each other.... for the most part. You'e got the likable gangsters, the washed up boxer, the gun toting lovebirds and the rest. No one is really your typical hero in this film, they're all more anti-hero types. That doesn't make them any less likable. Everyone can relate to someone in the film and everyone has their favorites. It includes a cast of thousands and jump started John Travolta's come back. It also cemented Samuel L. Jackson's status as a "Bad M F'er". It was nominated and won several awards and not only did it solidify Quentin Tarantino's status as a writer, but also as a director. He became part of the Hollywood elite after this and has since been making amazing films with the 100% support of Hollywood and audiences alike. This film has become similar to 'Citizen Kane' in the fact that it's included on almost every 'Top' critics list made after 1995. I think that because of that, just about everything that can be said about this film, has been said. So I'll just finish up this by saying, if you're ever in a pawn shop looking for the man that you screwed over to finish beating him up.... keep your head on a swivel because the last thing you want to do is end up in the basement with the gimp. Trust me on this.


# 7: 'Threesome'/ 'Naked In New York'

I feel that these two films go hand in hand. One handles the time when you're in college, the other handles the time right after college ends. Both are genius, in my opinion.

I think that because of the fact that this film is called 'Threesome' or the taboo subject matter involved, it doesn't get the credit it deserves. I remember the first time I saw it thinking that it was just another film that had nudity and sex in it, but upon repeated viewing I found so much more. I found a flim that related the college experience in a way that not too many had done before, only it was hidden underneath all the taboo subject matter. I think if you can see beyond that, you'll find that there is a lot going on here that deserves repeated viewings. I actually have weird nostalgia feelings whenever I see this. I look forward to reliving everything when I watch 'Threesome'. Granted, I may not have lived in a co-ed dorm with another guy and girl that ended in kinkiness, but that's kind of beside the point. What this film talks to is more the alienation and process of learning who you are. It is all about the philosophy that you'll figure out who you really are by the end of your college experience. The last scene in this film kind of sums up that point and it does it well.

The film is about two guys who end up in a dorm room together, but couldn't be more different. Over time they begin to get along and eventually become friends. Just as all of this is happening, a girl is suddenly thrust into their lives as she is moved into their dorm room as well. It proves to be a mix up due to her masculine sounding name, but there is a shorttage of living space on campus, so she's stuck there until they can find her somewhere else to live. This creates a strange microcosim. It's not a really long time before sexual tension begins to build between the roomates and you get the feeling that somethings going to give at some point. During all of this, they're living their own lives but slowly becoming more and more self involved with each other. I know my description still lends itself to the belief that this is all about the big sex scene, the "threesome". Yes, that's part of the point of this story, but the writing offers so much more than that. It offers an insight into the mindset of the young adult growing up. It's so sharp and crisp that it really grabs you if you'll let it. I love this film and think that people really need to open their minds and give it another viewing, you just might find more beneath the surface than you knew was there. I did.

Where 'Threesome' was about the college experience, 'Naked In New York' is about the time right after college, where you're first out on your own.... trying to make it in the big bad world. For a long, long time, this film was my #1 film of all time. It spoke volumes to me and had a deep effect on me after I saw it for the first time. It still resonates with me today, but I have shelved it futher own the list to match up with 'Threesome' as I feel that they are bookends to each other and need to be spoken of in the same sentence. That doesn't lessen my love for this flim, it just makes more sense to me this way. This film isn't 100% what everyone experiences just out of school, but it captures those feelings and questions and problems we all had. The things we all experienced tryint to make our way. Our attempts at love and where to make it go. Our failures, our successes. It's just a really smart and well done film. It has a cast of thousands and made me a believer in the acting skills of one Mr. Eric Stoltz. It led me to other films with him in it, like: 'Killing Zoe' and 'Sleep With Me'. (both also tie ins with Quentin Tarantino.) This film to me, not only captures a place in time in most of our lives, but also a feeling. It's another one of my 'nostalgia' films like 'Threesome'.

The film is about a young man who is trying to get his play on stage in New York City. He is living with his girlfriend who also has dreams, but hers are more centered around her photography. They both are fresh out of school and living together, but headed in different directions. As each of them begin heading down the path of their dreams.... they realize that they may not be able to go together. They revisit their collective past as they begin to move into their futures. What happens next? Well, the journey is half the fun. This script is wonderful to see acted out. Everyone in this film is well cast and gives a stellar performance. There are a few quirky moments that might give you a bit of pause, but it all just adds to the charm of the film. It's a little indie gem that came and went in the theaters really quickly and had a slightly better live on video. It's never reached the status that I feel that it should have, but to me.... that kind of makes it my own little private film or secret. One that I'll share with others, but hope that the rest of the world doesn't catch on. If you can find it and rent/buy it, do it. It didn't make this list for no reason at all and it didn't sit in my #1 position for as long as it did for no reason either. I have and always will love this film.


# 6: 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978)

Right next to 'House Of 1000 Corpses' on my list of greates horror films ever made, sits 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978). As you already knew and have also learned in this 'Top 50' countdown, I love zombies and I don't think any other film out there has captured them the way that this film has. Hell, I made a trip to the Monroeville Mall just to visit the location that they filmed this and I took a ton of pictures of recognizable sites! If that's not dedication, I don't know what is. Yes, I know this film is dated and the blood looks like paint.... but sometimes, the cinema is about suspension of disbelief. It was a different time and George A. Romero and Tom Savini were doing the best they could with what they had. Besides, they were making something that was epic in scope and in order to make it all work, they had to save money from time to time. To go beyond that, I'll admit it has a lot of other flaws.... you really have to see beyond them or embrace them to see the brilliance that is 'Dawn Of The Dead'. This film has massive amounts of zombies to spare, plenty of good guys and bad guys. Lots of creative ways to survive the zombie apocalypse and the ultimate zombie nerds dream of taking over a mall. Where else would you have wanted to be back in the day? Now days you might say some place like Costco or something, but back then.... things were different.

The storyline follows 4 different people trying to find safety and a new life after the world falls to a zombie epidemic. Two police officers, one news chopper pilot and a TV executive. They all team up and escape in a helicopter where they eventually find a mall where they decide to hold up for a night. After realizing that the mall has basically been sealed up already and barely any zombies are inside, they begin to think about just staying there until things get better in the world. So they barricade all the entrances, kill all the undead inside and create a safe haven in an unused storage area on the top floor.... basically sealed off and safe from anywhere else in the mall. Things go great for a while until travelling marauders find the mall and realize that people are inside. They get in touch with the group of 4 and warn them that they'll be coming in if they don't let them in. Soon the mall is overwhelmed by the motorcyle gang and along with the threat of violence from them, they've also let the zombie hordes in with them. It becomes an all out war for the mall. By the time they decide they should pack up and leave together, one of them is half eaten by zombies and he leads them back to the safe room. Does anyone survive? You'd have to see it to find out. Did I mention that the woman in the group is pregnant? Well, she is. This is one of the last films of Romero that I think he made the film that he wanted to make. After this, 'Day Of The Dead' was extremely trimmed back due to budget constraints. 'Land Of The Dead' was too over the top and too long after the last film. Next, 'Document Of The Dead'. I think he may be really happy with this one. This received some of the best reviews since 'Dawn Of The Dead' came out. It was a bit of a re-hash of other trends right now, but for this kind of genre it worked well. Finally he made 'Survival Of The Dead'. I still haven't quite made up my mind on this one, but it's still Romero and zombies, it just isn't the best story ever. Ah well, they can't all be 5 star films like 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978). This film did get a rough re-make in (2004) and is probably one of the best re-makes made so far. It built on the basics of the original story, but cranked up the intensity to 11 and a star rating to 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 15 - 11


I am thinking about posting the last 5 films, one day at a time. It would stretch the time out a bit to the "big payoff" (lol) but it might be fun? Let me know, let your voice be heard! Cheers!

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions.)

On this list, you will find instances where more than one film is listed. This is because either there was a tie or the films somehow tie in with each other and make one selection in my mind. At each occurance, I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my decision.


# 15: 'The Blair Witch Project'

This selection may just loose me all my readers and make you wonder why in the hell you started reading this blog in the first place. I can't help it, I love this film, I love Heather Donahue and I still get chills everytime I see the last 5 minutes of the film. I think this film is unique and something that still deserves a spot on people's 'Best of' lists, instead of being kind of ridiculed. If think about when it came out and all of the hype and curiousity about it.... it was unlike anything we'd really seen before. I remember watching little clips from of it on my friends computer. They scared the crap out of me. It also made all of us wonder if what we were saying was real or a hoax. It was so hard to tell back then. It was the dawn of the internet and the whole 'viral' video thing wasn't even a concept in some nerd's head. This was a film that was based on grassroots marketing, word of mouth and any kind of press they could find.... good or bad. It was the right concept at the right time and the perfect storm of indie films.

Something that I think is an important factor in enjoyment of this film, was seeing it in the theaters. I was lucky enough to have passes to opening night at a little theater in Oak Park, IL and I sat in an audience that all were as confused as I was. We all reacted together, we all jumped at scares together and at the end.... I'm pretty sure we all got chills together. It was not unlike my experience seeing 'Grindhouse' in the theater. It's something that you can't expect everyone else to understand. You just do your best to get your reasonings across as to why you love the film and what you want them to see in it and that's all you can do. To me, it's an experience I will never forget and anyone that knows me, usually knows about my deep love for 'The Blair Witch Project'.

The film is about 3 students who set out to make a documentary about a legendary witch that lives in the wooded area in a small town. While filming the locals and exploring the woods, they becoming horribly lost and are soon being hunted by some unseen force. Despite their best efforts, they can't escape and soon begin to loose their grip on thigs and begin turning on each other. The ending of this builds up to a monumental boil that pays off in such a big way that I can't help but watch it over and over. A lot of people think the ending was some kind of cop out or something, but with the buildup of the story and the pressure.... it just hits you like a sledgehmmer and leaves you feeling winded. This is a 5 star docu-type-drama-horror-classic that was followed by a less than stellar sequel. It also cursed the rest of the cast from really making many other films and if they did, they weren't too good. Regardless of all that, I am satisfied to just have this one piece of cinema. It makes me sad that this film has become some kind of a joke. It just proves, once again, that the masses are fickle. You have to take this film for what it is, the time it came out and how much it accomplished. For that, it makes my list.


# 14: 'Grindhouse': 'Planet Terror'/ 'Death Proof'

When I first heard the rumblings about this film and the teamup involved, I was floored. I followed it's every move until it hit the theaters. I listened to every radio interview, watched every TV snippet, checked the web, checked magazines, basically was a 'Grindhouse' stalker from beginning to end. Then, on opening weekend.... Amy and I went to see it in the theater. I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had at a film in the theaters. 'The Blair Witch Project', the 'Star Wars' films and 'Hot Fuzz' being the other biggest. Sadly, I don't think anyone else will ever appreciate these films the way I do. Only the select few that made it out to the theater can agree or disagree with that statement. The films involved are still great films, but together with the faux trailers and with an audience was an entirely different thing. I think what I saw was what Quentin and Robert wanted me to see. A throwback to a different time. A time when films were made for the audience reaction in the cinema and when you got more bang for your buck. I think the intention was that these two films might trigger a resurgance of this kind of entertainment. It didn't. As a matter of fact, the films kind of flopped at the box office. The critics praised them, but the audience didn't take the time to go and see them. However, after DVD release as two seperate films.... they've got a new life. They have also given us a re-issuing of tons of original 70's grindhouse films on DVD. They also gave us 'Machete' and 'Hobo With A Shotgun'. 'Machete' was fun and good stuff. 'Hobo With A Shotgun' was earth shattering. It echoed everything that the original two 'Grindhouse' films brout back and inspired a young film maker to live his dream. So, in the end did 'Grindhouse' not accomplish what it set out to? I think it did.

As far as each film goes, 'Planet Terror' is a take on the zombie genre and 'Death Proof' is a take on the chick/revenge genre. 'Planet Terror' tells the story of several different people that all live in the same town and are loosely connected to each other. During one night's time, the world basically ends when a deal goes bad and a toxin is released turning everyone into zombies. A group of individuals all find each other over the course of the evening and attempt to find safety. Oh, did I mention that one of the women is a go-go dancer that loses her leg and it's replaced by a high-powered machine gun? Well, it is. 'Death Proof' tells the story of Stuntman Mike, a man with a "death proof" car. He crosses paths with two groups of women. The first group, he murders and makes it look like a kind of accident. The second group he terrorizes, but they don't take his crap and they fight back. Can they stop him? Oh, did I mention that there is a HUGE car chase at the end? It's pretty rockin'.

People took this film as a challenge to pick a favorite. That's not the point, folks. It was about the unit as a whlole experience. I think that both films are amazing and are 5 star classics. I think that they show two film makers at the top of their games, making films that show off their love of their craft and of the genre's chosen. So you can watch them as a whole or individually, that's up to you. I'm hoping that at some point, they'll release them together as one film with trailers included in the middle again. I don't see that happening anytime soon. Oh well, with the internet and a little motivation, you can watch it the way it was originally intended.... thank goodness for that.

(this is the EXACT duplicate of the double-sided original movie poster that i have proudly hanging on my living room wall.... i got it from a friend that was running a movie theater at the time 'Grindhouse' was released.... this is one of my most favorite things i have in my home.)


# 13: 'Aladdin' (1992)

This is the last animated feature on my countdown and my all time favorite. I saw it in the theater with friends and left a changed guy. I bought it on VHS right before college and watched it every single day of my Freshman year of college. (Kind of nerdy, I know.... but it's the truth.) I am not 100% sure what it is about 'Aladdin' that I love so much, but I do. Granted, it has its flaws, like the early use of CGI. It's not done very well and kind of makes the film hard to watch. On the other hand, did you realize that the magic carpet is all CGI? I didn't until recently and it surprised me when I found out. Anyway, I know all the songs backwards and forwards. I can practically watch the film and quote all the dialouge. I have seen it so many times that I've lost count. It's not a part of my DVD collection, but that original VHS is still packed in a box as a reminder of how it all started. I have the entire trading card set, a giagantic puzzle and other stuff tied in with the film. I am an 'Aladdin' dork. I've also seen the sequels and animated show. I'm not impressed. Luckily, they didn't ruin my impression of the original.

'Aladdin' is not a new story, it's just a re-telling of an old story by Disney. It is about a young, homeless boy who helps a young girl in trouble. He finds out, after the fact, that she's a princess. He has fallen for her and tries to woo her, but is stopped by Jafar, the sulton's right hand man. After many adventures, a talking parrot, a trouble making monkey, a magc carpet, a giant tiger, a cave of wonders and a whole lot of singing.... he gets the girl. (Like I'm ruinig anything for anyone!) I am doubtful that any one of you reading this who grew up in the 90's hasn't seen this film. And if you haven't.... GO WATCH IT DAMN IT! I love this film, period. 5 stars is merely a way to express that, but it's more than a number, it's a part of my history. A part of our collective history. I have no doubt that this film will ever go away, it's a Disney classic and a mighty fine film.


# 12: 'Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead'

What in the hell is this film doing on this list? And why in the hell is it so high up on the list? I can hear you smacking your foreheads and groaning right now. Have you seen this film? If not, how can you judge? If you've seen the film, then I think you can understand why this film is where it is. It's Troma at its finest. It's Lloyd Kaufman's 'Citizen Kane'. It is what every film should be.... a horror film, a comedy, a romance, a disgust-a-thon, a zombie film, a film about fried chicken, an action film, a satire, a drama (maybe not so much), an homage and a musical. A musical???? Yup. One of the few musicals I enjoy. When you watch this film, you get everything you could ever want in a film all in one neat little bundle. It's perfection personified. 5 stars, 5 stars, 5 stars. I am pretty sure that none of the actors will ever escapre the Troma-bubble, but does it really matter? They've made a film that will go down in history. I love this film so much that I went out of my way to make sure that I purchased the 3 DVD edition. I wanted everything I could get about this film and I was not dissappointed with my decision. I also have an autographed Llyod Kaufman photo from the film and a promo one-sheet from the film, also autographed. Both are hanging proudly in my home. I have lost count how many times I've seen this film. I've also lost count how many times I've shared this film with others. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

The film centers around a young man named Arbie. He loves Wendy. Wendy went away to college and is now a lesbian in love with Micki. Arbie takes a job at The American Chicken Bunker to get her back. He works for Denny. Works with Carl Jr., Humus and Paco Bell. Some tainted chicken is given away to the public and soon the masses are eating the tainted chicken and then turning into undead, native American, chicken zombies! The gang holds up in the American Chicken Bunker after the Colonel shows up and makes things worse. Can they escape with their lives? Will Arbie turn Wendy back into a heterosexual? Will Carl Jr. get the mop handle out of his butt? Will Paco Bell survive as a sandwich? Will the zombies be stopped? Can they sing their way to freedom? Find out when you watch this film! This is the supreme pizza of films.... it has something for everyone, including a stuffed crust and dipping sauce. Damn it! Go and place your order now to watch 'Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead'.... if it's not their in 30 minutes or less, tough noogies.


# 11: 'Napoleon Dynamite'

Once again, I am expecting to hear some confusion from the crowd. Yes, I LOVE this film! I just watched it again today and I have not one clue how many times I've seen this film. I watch it just about once every month to three months, sometimes by myself and sometimes with the kids. It's on cable all the time, so I watch it there sometimes. I have watched films from the other actors, because of 'Napoleon Dynamite'. This film is here for a reason. If you haven't seen this film before, it's about a teen in Idaho and his daily life. It's mundane, for the most part, until his Uncle Rico has to come and watch over him. Also, another teen named Pedro moves into town and they become friends and work towards getting dates to the big dance and getting Pedro elected to class president. His brother, Kip, is starting a new romance and thinking about becoming a cage fighter. His llama needs more ham and it all leads up to a big dance number at the end! Sounds good, right? Well.... it is.

What I really love about this film is that it's rated 'PG'. I don't watch a whole lot of 'PG' rated films without my kids around, but 'Napoleon Dynamite' is the exception to that rule. It's an odd little film about odd little people. It's naive without being childish. There always seems like there might be some undercurrent of darkness or perversion in the film, but nothing ever happens and it seems like it's all in your mind. It's like we're so used to a standard for films, that when one comes along that is just plain pure of heart, we still expect the worst from it. Even the bully in this film is kind of a nice guy. Instead of just demanding money from a smaller kid.... he says, "Give me $.50! I'll pay ya back!" And I believe him. He also just doesn't take a kid's bike, he asks to borrow it. Again, I honestly think he's going to bring it back. Uncle Rico makes some bad choices and it even seems like he's going to make more of them by hitting on Napoleon's friend Deb. It all just turns out to be in our heads and we just assume it, because we're jaded. I love that this film makes me re-think my whole thought processes. It's a grown up film, with a child like sensability. All of the character's are flawed and not your typical leading stars. The story is pretty basic and would be dull by most standards. The villans really aren't bad people, they just make bad choices because they don't know what else to do. Our hero is the guy we all made fun of growing up, yet in this context we root for him and identify with him. This film is the reason I watch films. I love to be surprised. I obviously, can't say enough good things about 'Napoleon Dynamite'. It is, as I say, pitch-perfect film making. Sadly, I haven't seen the next film made by the same primaries called 'Nacho Libre'. For some reason it doesn't hold the same appeal and didn't get the best reviews. I guess that's me just being snobby or worried that it might be better than this.... I don't know. Either way, 5 stars or 5 tater tots in my zippered pocket. Now, I'm off to dance in my moon boots and then run off stage. VOTE FOR PEDRO!(this is the trailer for the original film....)

(not too sure about this upcoming cartoon on Fox.)

UPDATE: I am now thinking that I might continue with the last two posts as normal.... except: I would make the #1 film a post on it's own. That way I could dedicate a bit more time and love to it? Maybe? Purple monkey dishwasher.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 20 - 16

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions.)

On this list, you will find instances where more than one film is listed. This is because either there was a tie or the films somehow tie in with each other and make one selection in my mind. At each occurance, I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my decision.


# 20: 'Let The Right One In'

I used to be a huge vampire fan, before I learned about the world of zombies. Slowly, I lost interest and with some of the things coming out lately, I begin to really question the direction of vampires in general. Then.... I saw 'Let The Right One In'. This film changed everything. I am a firm believer that this is the best vampire film ever made. I can't say enough good things about this film. It was so good that there was bound to be a re-make of it made for American audiences. 'Let Me In' is the American counterpart and I really found it to be quite good, but it's not as good as the original. I think a lot of what makes 'Let The Right One In' such a triumph is the script (which is based on a book), the pacing, the acting and the cinematography is like watching a moving painting. I've seen it multiple times and I've also added it to my DVD library. Now, a lot of people may be turned off a bit by the foreign language and subtitles. Don't let that keep you from watching this film.

5 out of 5. The film centers around a relationship with a young boy and (what appears to be) a young girl. He's picked on and not very well liked or respected. The little girl is new to his building and doesn't go out in the day time. He soon realizes that she's not like the other kids he knows. They form a relationship. The rest of the film is a slow burn to a big payoff and a satisfying finale. This is the way films should be made. I don't believe that you can make and/or watch films this good all of the time. If you don't watch a little crap every once in a while, then you can't appreciate the good stuff.... like this film. Same thing with people that make films, sometimes you just have to make films that are crap. If people didn't do that, then we wouldn't have classic films like 'Thankskilling'! (a real film, that i REALLY love.) Anyway, the point of all of this is.... watch 'Let The Right One In', you may not see vampire films in the same way again or you may not want to see another vampire film. I believe it's that good.


# 19: 'Hard Eight'/ 'Boogie Nights'/ 'Magnolia'/ 'Punch-Drunk Love'/ 'There Will Be Blood' - the Paul Thomas Anderson library

I don't know how much, if any, I've mentioned my love of all things Paul Thomas Anderson. Everything he touches is gold, in my opinion. I've seen every one of his films. I own every one of his films. I love everyone of his films. He is an auteur of the highest caliber. I always look forward to his next film and am continually surprised at the quality of what he puts out. He takes some things that seem so simple and strings everything together into a giant patchwork of amazing. His films tend to be epic in their scope, no matter how simplistic or complex the plot seems. He adds subtle twists and things that add that little bit of extra 'oomph' to the story that sets his films apart from other films. He rarely makes a film that has a run time that doesn't exceed the standard hour and a half length of most films. He likes to take a film to its ultimate end, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes I wonder if he should have been a novelist as his films feel like a novel when you watch them. A film based on a book that doesn't exist. (although 'There Will Be Blood' is loosely based on 'Oil!' by Upton Sinclair)

'Hard Eight' is about gambling in Las Vegas. 'Boogie Nights' is about a porn star with a huge penis and his rise and fall and rise again. 'Magnolia' is a film about multiple lives that all intersect, but are seperate. 'Punch-Drunk Love' is about a man who falls for a woman. And 'There Will Be Blood' is about a ruthless tycoon. All of them are amazing and all of them are 5 star films that can be watched repeatedly and you can find something new in them each time. If you don't like one of his films, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, try another one.... you may be surprised. All of his films have similar feels, but are completely different. He has something to offer everyone.

Before I end this, I know you're saying "Paul Thomas Anderson isn't a film, he's a film maker!" You're right. However, I love all of his films, so rather than pick all of them.... I just choose him. I hope you'll all forgive me. Hey, it's my list, right?


# 18: 'Clerks'

I don't know how much more I can say about 'Clerks' that hasn't already been said. It proved that an amazing film could be made on a tiny budget and be, basically, just talking. It made Kevin Smith's name a household one. It set the wheels in motion for sequels, tie-in's and a whole lot of merchandising. It is a classic of the highest comedy caliber. Other than saying it's an obvious 5 star film, I don't know what else I could say.

Thank you Kevin Smith for taking a chance on being a film maker. You have a unique comedic voice and one that spans across genre's into drama and now horror too. I look forward to an expansive career to come.


# 17: 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'

Another film that I purchased early on in my film buying career is 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. I got it right before I went away to college and it was a staple of college viewing. I've lost count how many times I've seen it. It's one of/if not my favorite Jack Nicholson films. He was at the top of his game when he made this. It is the standard for which many other film adaptations of books would look towards for guidance. There isn't much about this film that isn't amazing. It deserved every award nomination and win that it received. The Acadamey loved it and I don't blame them. It jump started a lot of career's like Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Berryman, Scatman Crothers, Vincent Schiavelli, Brad Dourif and of course, Louise Fletcher. The director, Milos Forman, was on his 'A' game during the filming of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. It's not unlike watching 'The Shining' when you see it. A painting on film. The music and screenplay are extremely complementary to the storyline and only improve on both.

The storyline follows Randall P. McMurphy as he is put into a mental institution in lieu of jail. He has everyone believing that he is crazy, rather than a criminal. What he soon finds out is that he may have bitten off more than he could chew by going this route. We meet the cast of characters in the ward, including the evil head nurse, Nurse Ratched. R.P. and Nurse Ratched butt heads right away and it becomes a struggle for power which he cannot win. He continually pushes her buttons until soon she does something that will result in his ultimate end and the re-birth of his closest friend.

This film is not for everyone, but it has a little bit of everything for anyone who watches it. It's rare to find a film like this being made anymore. Everyone wants the ultimate happy ending and doesn't realize that you don't always have to have the good guy win in the end. 5 stars. One I recommend that everyone see at least once. (Little bit of backstory: Kirk Douglas starred in a version of this on Broadway in 1963, too some acclaim, and he owned the rights to the story. By the time the film came around, he was told old to play the lead. He passed the rights along to his son, Michael Douglas and he ended up producing the film version.)


# 16: 'Natural Born Killers'

The best way I can describe this film is: a million dollar student film. In no way do I mean that as an insult. I believe that Oliver Stone made this film with the open-mindedness of a student in school.... a person willing to take risks for either a successful payoff or huge failure. Either way, he wanted to make it the way he wanted to make it.... no matter what the critical outcome. Here is another of Quentin Tarantino's films that he ended up not directing. There is a bit of controversy as to if he should have directed it or not, however I think that this is Oliver Stone's best piece of work and I can't see how Tarantino could have improved upon it. Now, do I think Quentin would have made an amazing film? Yes. But I do think that we would have missed out on something really amazing if he hadn't given up the rights. It also was re-witten by Oliver and other people involved with the film making process, which worked well and took some of the Tarantino-isms out of it, thus making it more removed from his original script. (side note: Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth were both offered the same unspecified role and turned it down. Jane Hamsher claims in her book about the movie that they did so because Quentin Tarantino told them he would never cast either of them in any of his movies again if they took the role. Kind of a dick move, but a cool one at the same time.)

I think that Quentin has made enough amazing films before and after this one, that I think Oliver Stone is okay to get credit for this one. Besides, I'm generally not an Oliver Stone fan. If he made more films like this one, I just might be. I mean, who would've put Rodney Dangerfield in the role of an abusive father with a desire to do naughty things to his daughter? I certainly wouldn't have. Funny story about this film, I went to see it with several other guys.... after seeing it, we spent the next 30 minutes trying to decide if we even liked it or not.... after that time was up, we didn't stop talking about it for the next week. We looked at it from every angle possible and tried to pick apart all of the finder details of it. In essence, we fell in love. For me, that love is just as strong today as it ever was. As a matter of fact, I just watched it a week and a half ago. It holds up brillantly nd is still just as important a film today as it was when it came out. If you decide to watch it, bring an open mind and some free time. You don't want to be distracted when you're watching it.... it's a film you want to see from beginning to end with no breaks. This probably deserves more than 5 stars, but I have to limit myself in some way, right? Go. Watch. Now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 25 - 21

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions.)

On this list, you will find instances where more than one film is listed. This is because either there was a tie or the films somehow tie in with each other and make one selection in my mind. At each occurance, I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my decision.


# 25: 'True Romance'

I keep debating about putting this film higher up on the list, but I've settled here and I think it'll stay here. The reason for my second guessing myself, is that this is kind of the first film that made me truly fall in love with film. The story goes a little something like this: I went to the video store with my buddy Josh. It was 1993 and I very rarely watched movies. He directed me towards the box for 'True Romance'. It looked interesting, but I had no idea who all of the people were that were listed on the box. I had never heard of the director, nor did I even care who directed it.... let alone who wrote it. We took it home and watched it. I fell in love from the time the credits began to roll. Every name that came up on the screen was burned into my brain and they have remained there ever since. This was the changing point in my life, granted, it would still be a couple of years before I took the BIG leap into film, but this got my swimming in a slightly deeper end of the pool. If you haven't seen this film, let me break down the people involved: director - Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott and director of 'Days of Thunder', 'Man on Fire', 'Domino' and 'The Last Boy Scout' just to name a few), writer - Quentin Tarantino (if you don't know who he is, are you sure you're reaing the right blog....?), original music by - Hans Zimmer and starred: Christan Slater, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Bronson Pinchot, Samuel L. Jackson, Saul Rubinek, Michael Rappaport, James Gandolfini, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Maria Patillo, Kevin Corrigan and none other than Patricia Arquette. She is, because of this film, my all time favorite actress and I still love her today. How can you beat all of this talent in one place? To be honest, it's hard to do if not impossible to do. Have you stopped reading this to go and watch 'True Romance' yet?

The plot revolves around a comic shop worker who hooks up with a new call girl and their attempts to sell a hell of a lot of cocaine that they got from her former pimp.... on accident. They're being hunted and the whole time are fostering a brand new relationship and marriage. It all ends in a HUGE climax of a Mexican stand off. It's HUGE. This film hits every single pressure point on the body and never misses a beat. 5 stars isn't really enough to give this film, it's just an amazing example of what a perfect storm looks like. Again, I don't know why this ends up here on the list, but it does and it may have something to do with the fact that I want to keep it grounded. If I push it too high, then my expectations will be raised for everytime I see it and I don't want to ever dislike this film.... for any reason. I only hope that this review didn't set an expectation that can never be reached. This is, after all, just a film. It started a lot of careers for people, it furthered the careers for others and it allowed a new writer to get his voice heard so that he could soon start making his own films. (Although, 'Reservoir Dogs' had already been released.) Anyway, I highly recommend that you see this film if you never have before. Seriously. (And deep down, if you want, you can think of this as my #1 pick.... because in a way, it just might be that film.)


# 24: 'The Shining' (1980)

I'm not 100% sure when my love affair with Jack Nicholson as an actor, had started.... but he was and still is at the top of my list as my favorite actor. 'The Shining' is just one of his many amazing examples of why he's Hollywood royalty. Not too mention, during the 70's and even the early 80's, Jack was in prime form. When you take those factors and tie them in with the direction of Stanley Kurbick, you get this film.... a masterpiece of cinema. It's ilke watching a piece of artwork come to life. Stanley shows us all how to paint a picture with celluloid and lenses. You can easily tell in the first 15 minutes of the film what you're going to expect for the remaining time watching it. Now, the film isn't a super duper barn burner. It is very methodically paced and you have to be willing to spend your time focused on what you're seeing. It isn't one body hitting the floor after another or gunfire every 10 minutes, this film is one that builds up to its climax. It's a worthwhile ending if you can spend the time invested in the beginning. Something else you should know, this film is a departure from the original book by Stephen King. He made his version of it years later, in 1997, with Steven Weber.... a version I haven't yet seen. To be honest, I'm not really sure that I want to see it. The only thing that draws me to this version is that Stephen King, himself, if in the movie and it was filmed at The Stanley Hotel in Colorado.... where the original book had been written.

'The Shining' follows Jack Torrance's life as he takes his wife and son to live at The Overlook hotel over the winter months. He is the onsite caretaker and it's only him and his family that live there. It's a huge hotel and there had been a tragedy with the previous caretaker, he had killed his entire family. Soon, Jack begins to change and his family becomes afraid and we become a wittness to the demise of one man's sanity and his descent into another life. It's a chilling film that only gives up certain details as you need to be made aware of them. There is a lot of times during this film that you're not sure what's real and what isn't. There are obvious ghosts and paranormal activity, but is it just in Jack's mind? And why is it that his son is psychically linked with the former tennants and with the man that he met that takes care of the hotel during the regular seasons? This is my favorite Kubrick film and one of my top 5 Jack Nicholson films. It has all the ear marks of an amazing ghost story and serial killer tale. There are so many good things going for this film that it bleeds over into the special features for this film as well. What I'm saying is, that if you watch this film.... you should make time to watch the extra stuff too. It's worth your time. This film is a 5 star homerun and has an often copied template for modern horror. If you have the time and the focus, this is one film that you need to add to your mental film library, soon. Why? Because "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." End of sentence.


# 23: 'Hobo With A Shotgun'

I know I've made it no secret that this film was in my 'Top 50' list, I've already written a review for it and rather than bore you with more praise.... you can read the original post here: . 5 stars, brillant film.


# 22: 'Dumb and Dumber'/ 'Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy'

(the poster is for 'Dumb and Dumber'.... the trailer below is for 'Anchoman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy'....)

I can't say enough good things about both of these films. I've been a fan of 'Dumb and Dumber' since the first time I saw it. I watched it several times in a row the first time I rented it. 'Anchorman' wasn't quite the same story. I was a later fan of Will Ferrell than most. It also took a couple of viewings to really get into this film. However, I'm now a HUGE fan of 'Anchorman' and I have watched it more times then I can count. I love it. Both of these films are so damn good that you can enjoy them by yourself or with friends. That, to me, is a great sign that a comedy is a success. I know that these two films are popular choices and there isn't anything wrong with that, is there? Just because a film is popular, doesn't make it a bad film. I mean, it's popular for a reason, right?

'Dumb and Dumber' follows the cross country trip of Harry and Lloyd as they attempt to return a briefcase full of money to a woman in Colorado. 'Anchorman' is about a news team in the 70's, who are forced to take on a female co-anchor. Fairly basic plots for both.... but there is SO much more to these films than the synopsis's would suggest. Not only have the actors gone on to do bigger and better things, but the directors and writers as well. Most of them had some sort of career ahead of time, but these are the ones that they'll put at the top of their resumes. I feel that 5 stars is well earned for each film and I am proud that they're both a part of my DVD library. As a matter of fact, I just watched them both a few nights ago due to this list. LOL.... I love it and so should you.


# 21: 'The Exorcist'

I don't know what I can say about 'The Exorcist' that hasn't already been said before. It is always near the top of every list ever made by horror lovers for the scariest film of all time. I can honestly say that I have a hard time watching this film, even now.... it scares the crap out of me. I tried reading the book once and it gave me massive headaches. I had to stop reading it. The film doesn't have that effect, but it still freaks me out. Linda Blair turns in an amazing performance that she has never topped and she was just a kid at the time. It's such a simple concept for a film, but William Friedkin masterfully pulls all of the strings of our childhood fears in such a way that this film has stood the test of time and trials. It's also spawned several prequels and sequels, but none of them have ever matched the original. As a matter of fact, if I was to make a 'Worst 50 Films of All Time' list.... 'The Exorcist 2: The Heretic' would probably be at #1. Ugh.

The story here is about Regan MacNeil, a 12 year old little girl who ends up being possessed by a demon after fooling around with a oujia board and a thing calling itself, Captain Howdy. A priest is eventually called in to try and remove the entity from Regan. The priest is joined by another, younger, priest and they determine who the evil is and fight with it for the little girls life. This film has so many distubring things going on within its 122 minute run time. Some of it implied, some of it not. As if it wasn't scary enough, they re-releaesed the film as "The Version You've Never Seen". It included new footage, including a 'spider walk' down the stairs by Regan. Rarely does added footage enhance a film, see 'Star Wars', but in this case.... I think it does. It made a scarier film, even scarier and has now left us with two versions of one amazing film. This film is probably always going to be #1 on my list of 'Scariest Films Of All Time', but it'll have to settle for #21 on this list.