Saturday, August 16, 2008

*Top 5 Action Movies of All-Time*

Winner: Bob Sutton

BRAVEHEART - the battle scenes in this almost made me lose my lunch, they were so realistic. I'm not sure if this truly belongs in the 'action' category, because it contains elements of drama, comedy, and epic adventure, I believe that the 3+ epic battle scenes do enough to warrant a 5th place in this category.

HOT FUZZ - Admittedly, this movie should be banned from this list because of all the back-handed references it makes towards other action movies. However, the lighthearted and quick witted Brits pulled off another badass movie that unlike many others in this category actually have SOME depth. I'm not saying this is the next Apocalypse Now or anything, but perhaps it leaves Micheal Bay playing in the shallow end.

TOP GUN - Does this need an explanation? Flying around in multi-million dollar jets, blowing things up. Oh yeah, and there is shirtless beach volleyball to boot!

KUNG FU HUSTLE - This action comedy brought me to tears during its pinnacle. It is that good. Not that I'm a Never-Cry person, I have a sensitive side. Stephen Chow's first big release in the US showcases the humility and hilarity that other action flicks seem to ignore. I mean, it is a MOVIE for crying out loud, it should entertain on multiple fronts. This movie keeps you guessing until the very end when your head finally explodes with awesomeness.

300 - Walking from the theater my father-in-law was so pumped up he growled at a random popcorn-carrying kid: "Give me that Popcorn!" It was hilarious. Few movies got me as pumped up as that movie did. And it is based on a true story, which appeals to the history lover in me.
Good, diverse list there, Bob. Braveheart was a nice inclusion. Really set a new standard for epic battle scenes. But Hot Fuzz definitely sent it over the top for me. I've caught it five or six times since it's hit the movie channels, and I just don't think I'll ever grow tired of it. That said, you missed a magical opportunity by leaving out Point Break and Bad Boys II.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

[Top 5 Action Movies of All-Time]

As "action" is a pretty loose term, a moderate amount of genre bleeding is to be expected. (If this is your first visit to DITF, here's how it works.)

5.) The Bourne Identity (2002): Contains one of the best (if not the best) car chases ever filmed and single-handedly raised the bar for what audiences expect out of a fight scene.

4.) Speed (1994):
Bus + Bomb + Ted = Fun.

3.) Predator (1987): Two future governors, an invisible alien and lots of big guns and exploding trees. Add a jumbo bag of Skittles, and I'm in Heaven.

2.) The Matrix (1999): Even with several dozen viewings under my belt, I always get chills when he stops the bullets at the end. Such a cool flick.

1.) Die Hard (1988): Needs no introduction or explanation. The father of the modern-day action movie. Twenty years later and everyone's still trying to live up to the standard set by John McClain. (Note: Don't feel like you have to leave this off your list just because it's on mine. In fact, you might have some explaining to do if it's not at least in your top three.)
*Top 5 Best Working Actresses*

Winner: mr. heatmiser

5. Marion Cotillard – see La Vie en Rose, Big Fish, assorted French films

4. Laura Linney – see The Squid and the Whale, Kinsey, The Savages

3. Jennifer Connelly – see The Labyrinth, Requiem for a Dream, Beautiful Mind, general hotness

2. Juliette Binoche – see The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Chocolat, Trois Couleurs

1. Frances McDormand – see Fargo, anything else

Our first repeat winner. Nice list. Frances McDormand should have been on mine. Shame on me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

[Top 5 Best Working Actresses]

Pretty self-explanatory. Any actress still making movies (so yeah, no dead ones, please). As you’ll soon notice, this post is longer than the others, due mainly to a footnote toward the end that sort of got out of hand, lengthwise. Read as much, or as little, as you like.*

*Which is sort of redundant... a half-full/half-empty kind of statement. And of course it goes without saying that you don’t need, nor did you ask for, my permission to do either (or both).

5.) Natalie Portman I made this pick based on two roles: Mathilda in The Professional* (aka Leon aka The Cleaner) and Alice in Closer, the second strongest acting performance (eclipsed only by Clive Owen’s) in what is in my opinion the most well-acted** movie of the past decade. Her career as a whole, however, has been spotty at best, stained by her performances in the Star Wars prequels, though this was not entirely her fault (more on the Lucas-factor later) and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, one of the worst-reviewed movies of 2007. Thus her position at the end of the list.***

*At the risk of showing my bias here, I fell just skull over ankles in love with her because of this movie. And no, it’s not gross—I was thirteen at the time, and she’s three months older than I am.
**Yeah, “most well-acted” may be the most awkward, clunky phrase ever to dirty up the English language. One of those clich├ęs borne out of no better way to say a thing.
***Or beginning, as it were. Though the beginning’s really the end in this case. I think countdowns (as opposed to countups) have more dramatic effect.

4.) Kate Winslet One of the most underrated actresses out there. She has overcome the Titanic stigma by posting outstanding performances in film after film, with four in particular coming to mind: Quills, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland and Little Children. She has one of the rarest qualities you can find in an actor—range—and I expect more good things from her in the years to come.

3.) Gwyneth Paltrow Again, some bias slipping in here. I’m a card-carrying, meeting-attending Gwynaholic. Have been since the mid-‘90s when she hit it big with Se7en, (actually caught my first glimpse in ’91—I distinctly recall thinking the young Wendy in Hook was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen in my life (I was ten)). She won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, but that doesn’t represent her best work. Gwyneth moved out of the ‘crush’ category and into the ‘amazing actresses I happen to find gorgeous’ category with Proof, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe but snubbed by the Academy.*

Subcategory: Projected Names of Gwyneth's Next 5 Children:
1.) Avocado
2.) Possum
3.) Broofus
4.) Methuselah
5.) Helmet

*In favor of a handful of actresses whose films I didn’t see (and so won’t disparage them unjustly), Hillary Swank (Million Dollar Baby, for which she won—deservingly,** I think, though I can’t be sure, I guess, not having seen the others, as stated above) and my #4, Kate Winslet (for Eternal Sunshine).
**Stephen: I’ve been shopping at Lolly’s, as you can tell. And you were right, happiness did wash over me.

2.) Dame Judi Dench I feel sort of poser-ish putting her at number two—it implies a much deeper patronage/knowledge of her career than I possess. According to the always reliable, Michael Scott-approved Wikipedia, she received her formal training onstage in London as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. But I first got to know her as ‘M,’ James Bond’s boss, saw her again in Shakespeare in Love and then again in The Shipping News, which was the film that won me over. Like her male counterpart and fellow knight, Sir Anthony Hopkins, she’s one of those actors you don’t want to look away from when they’re onscreen—not even for a second—for fear of missing something special.

1.) Cate Blanchett Yeah, I know. Such a conventional choice. But sometimes the reason a convention becomes a convention is because it’s true. While there was some preliminary shifting around of #’s 2-5, I never doubted my #1 spot: Ms. Blanchett held it from the beginning. Elizabeth,* Lord of the Rings, The Shipping News (a minor part, but a good point of reference with respect to her range), The Aviator, Babel, Notes on a Scandal, I’m Not There (one of the strangest, most compelling performances I’ve seen to date), et cetera.** More than any other actor I can think of, male or female, she seems to approach each subsequent project as a challenge to reinvent herself. But unlike the majority of those who attempt this, she has the talent to pull it off.

*Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a chick flick just because it involves a love story. For one, Geoffrey Rush is in it, and he kills people.
**So yeah, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fits somewhere in here (spoilers ahead: don’t read on if you haven’t seen it yet and want to go in fresh), which brings me to the Lucas-factor, the ability of this modern filmmaking icon, draped in Millennium Falcon-adorned laurels, to draw more talent to his recent projects than he knows what to do with. And I mean that in a literal sense.

Not only is the new Indy movie the worst film George Lucas has ever made (and that’s saying a lot in light of The Phantom Menace), it’s the worst movie Harrison Ford has ever made as well (and that’s saying a whole hell of a lot in light of Hollywood Homicide). An insultingly predictable and lazily-constructed plot, one-dimensional and often incoherent character development, a slew of missed opportunities (not the least of which are underutilized actors—LaBeouf’s natural charm is wasted on a tough-guy greaser caricature while Blanchett is constricted to a sword-wielding stick-figure Communist whose motivations are never really articulated), almost no charm whatsoever (not entirely Ford’s fault, by the way—no one could’ve delivered those lines with any semblance of charisma (but his acting is also pretty bad)), too absurd and over-the-top even for an Indiana Jones film (yeah, I’m thinking of LaBeouf’s vine-swinging and the nuclear blast/fridge scene at the beginning with those cute little gophers a la Caddyshack—for a second it felt like I was watching a Pixar flick). Ultimately, it played more like the reunion episode of a sitcom than a feature film, a movie high on its own nostalgia, much to the detriment of the end product. This guy sums it up pretty well, I think.

And it would be a mistake to blame the director, because this is not a Spielberg movie—I refuse to believe the guy who made Munich could turn out something like this. Even his lower-tier efforts (Lost World, War of the Worlds, etc.) are pretty solid, respectable films, overall. No, George called the shots on this one. Spielberg, artistically crippled by Lucas’s close involvement with the project (and hesitant to give honest script notes that might have saved the film (but tested their friendship)), just worked the camera, kept his mouth shut, and now he’s stuck with it.

It’s like the guy whose wife gives him a wool sweater for his birthday. All the seams are crooked, the arms are too short and it’s a bright fluorescent orange. But even though it’s ugly as sin he wears it with pride, never saying a word, because he loves her, bless her heart, and he knows it took her five months to knit it.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the orange sweater Lucas knitted for Spielberg. The real tragedy is that he used to be pretty handy with a needle.
*Top 5 Songs of the '80s*

Winner: Nam Nguyen

5. 18 and Life, Skid Row ('89) - This one's in the outfield compared to the rest of the group... but I can just remember playing this tape over and over in my brother's boom box wondering if I'd ever personally know the sound of '18 and life' followed by the slam and echo of a gavel ringing in my convicted ears.

4. Bizarre Love Triangle, New Order ('86) - I'll go ahead and say that I think this is an Asian thing. Either way, this song was and still is the JAM! Next question.

3. The Lady In Red, Chris DeBurg ('86) - I'll fight this one to the death. Pure unadulterated 80's love cheese and I can't get enough. I made sure we played this song at my wedding. That right, I totally did.

2. Take On Me, a-ha ('85) - How can one song win so many awards and then have the group vanish the very next year? Penciled in cartoon bad guys... I mean, come on! I wish I had played this one at my wedding too.

1. Beat It, Michael Jackson ('82) - I think he could have been the first black president if he would have run in the 80's. I used to think the chorus sang, 'no one wants to feel a beating...' Man, I even argued someone in high school for weeks until I went back and realized I'm an idiot. As if I hadn't come to that conclusion before.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

[Top 5 Songs of the '80s]

After a longer wait than promised, and as a reward for your patience, I’ve gone with a topic I think everyone will be happy with. I was, at least.

I thought I'd need hours (maybe days) to come up with my list, what with all the ‘80s goodness floating around in my head, but in the end it took all of maybe two minutes. And there was no question about it -- it had to be these five. Collectively, they take me back to the happiest period in my life by far (age 0-9, approx.). It’s been pretty much downhill since.

5.) Send Me an Angel, Real Life (1983): A movie was released in 1986 that changed BMX racing the world forever. That movie was Rad. I’ll skip the synopsis/review, because I think the title speaks for itself. In the following clip, Cru Jones, local paperboy and Helltrack hopeful, takes to the dance floor in a freestyle trick-bike dance-off with Uncle Jesse’s wife from Full House, (who looks mysteriously dude-ish in the wide shots). If you’re a fan of Olympic Gymnastics (and who isn’t, when they’re being honest) you might also recognize US gymnastics champion-turned-announcer Bart Conner, who plays BMX badass Bart Taylor in the movie. “Send Me an Angel” was also featured in Teen Wolf Too, starring a young Jason Bateman, as well as The Wizard, starring an even younger Fred Savage (who still doesn’t look a day over twelve, by the way), but Rad was the original. Not sure how many times I watched this scene as a kid. Probably in the hundreds. At least more than the number of times I beat Contra. Not quite as many times as I watched the opening skateboarding sequence in Back to the Future. Somewhere around there. Anyway, all that said, I love this track.

4.) Danger Zone, Kenny Loggins (1986): Being six years old is all about danger. Whether you’re jumping from your tree house to the roof of the storage building or mixing different flavors of Kool-Aid together, you’re pushing yourself to the limit with every second. And not only was this song dangerous, it was so dangerous it needed its own zone. That, combined with Loggins’ edgy vocal stylings, made it my anthem through a large chunk of elementary school. One could justifiably compose his/her ‘80s list exclusively of Kenny Loggins’ hits, if one were so inclined (“Footloose,” “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man),” “Playing With the Boys,” “I’m Alright,” etc.).

3.) Glory of Love, Peter Cetera (1986): The Karate Kid Part II taught me how to love. First you chop through blocks of ice. Then you stand up to the village bully. Then you race a beautiful Okinawan girl up the seashore to the unmistakable falsetto of Chicago’s Peter Cetera. That's about it. Makes me a little sad that we’ve likely seen the end of the middle-aged pop artist (besides Madonna, I guess). You’ve got to be pretty nowadays and know how to dance and whatnot. And unfortunately, notwithstanding his Busey-esque good looks, Cetera’s got a dance for radio. This video just makes me happy in a whole bunch of indefinable ways.

2.) Thriller, Michael Jackson (1982): Thriller had a longer run in my Walkman than any other tape. I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV back then, so I didn’t see the video until years later. Couldn’t get enough of the song, though. Yep, before the plastic surgery and Jesus Juice and all that nonsense MJ was one of the coolest guys on the planet. (Thought about embedding the Philippines prison clip, but I figured almost everyone’s already seen it. Just in case, though, here it is.)

1.) Heart of Rock n Roll, Huey Lewis and the News (1984): My favorite song from the time I was five to about eleven. The first song I can remember singing along with when it came on the radio. Easily beats “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Vogue” and “The ABCs” for the title of “Greatest Listing Song of All-Time.” Next to Mozart’s “Requiem,” maybe the best piece of music ever written, period. You heard me right.



Wednesday, May 7, 2008

*Top 5 Movie Quotes of the Last 25 Years*

Winner: Justin Barclay

American Beauty

Mr. Smiley's manager: I don't think you'd fit in here.Lester: I have fast food experience.Mr. Smiley's manager: Yeah, like twenty years ago!Lester: Well, I'm sure there have been amazing technological advances in the industry, but surely you must have some sort of training program. It seems unfair to presume I won't be able to learn.

Fight Club

Tyler Durden: Do you know what a duvee is?Jack: It's a comforter.Tyler Durden: It's a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvee is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then?Jack: Consumers?Tyler Durden: Right. We are consumers. We're the by-products of a lifestyle obsession.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Harmony: Well, for starters, she's been fucked more times than she's had a hot meal.Harry: Yeah, I heard about that. It was neck-and-neck and then one day she skipped lunch.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Cameron: Okay Ferris, can we just let it go, please?Sloane: Ferris, please. You've gone to far. We're going to get busted.Ferris: A, You can never go too far. B, If I'm gonna get busted, it is not gonna be by a guy like that.


Billy Clanton: Hey. Hey. Is that Old Dog Trey? Sounds like Old Dog Trey.Doc Holliday: Pardon?Billy Clanton: You know, Stephen Foster. "Oh, Susannah", "Camptown Races". Stephen stinking Foster.Doc Holliday: Ah, yes. Well, this happens to be a nocturne.Billy Clanton: A which?Doc Holliday: You know, Frederic fucking Chopin.


Never seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Great joke, though. Sort of Tarantino-ish. Guess I need to check it out.