In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
The “30 Movie Challenge” is a list that has been circulating social media for some time. It’s simply a survey proposing criteria to list 30 movies, and being a film nerd, I LOVE MAKING LISTS. As I worked my way through the entries I found it to be a great conversation piece amongst fellow cinephiles. As such, I’ve decided to expound upon my choices over the next few weeks in convenient 5-entry bursts. I invite you to play along by making a list of your own! Let’s begin.
1. The best movie you watched in the last year: Sorcerer (1977, dir. – William Friedkin)
I watched a lot of movies in the past year, but none have been more exciting or intense than Sorcerer. Friedkin’s follow up to The Exorcist had the unfortunate circumstance of opening right around the same time as Star Wars. This resulted in terrible returns at the box office and a criminally short theatrical run. Moreover, audiences who were psyched to see a supernatural thriller, based both on the pedigree of The Exorcist as well as the mystical sounding title, were disappointed to find that the story was as real-world as they come. This is the second adaptation of the novel The Wages of Fear, and it’s one of the few movies out of Friedkin’s catalog that the director claims he is able to watch, citing that the finished project is closer to his vision than any of his other work.
2. An extremely underrated movie: The Ladykillers (2004, dirs. – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
Outside of Intolerable Cruelty (also underrated), this is easily the Coen brothers’ most forgotten film, and it’s a damn shame. More a re-imagining than a remake of the 1955 film of the same name, the Coen’s take on the classic crime comedy is decidedly more sinister. Tom Hanks puts on a gleefully evil performance as a southern “gentleman” posing as a band leader in order to orchestrate a casino robbery. He leads an ensemble of do-badders as they try to pull a fast one on a seemingly clueless octogenarian. Things go very wrong very fast, and the group’s attempts to pull of the heist and maintain a sense of honor amongst thieves is consistently hilarious and, as has come to be expected with the Coens, quite suspenseful. Even if the movie doesn’t quite work for you, the value of Tom Hanks’ performance cannot be understated. It’s the type of work he so rarely does, and it’s a blast to watch him relish in it. There’s also a character named Garth Pancake. I love that.
3. A movie that makes you really happy: Jackass Number Two (2006, dir. – Jeff Tremaine)
Yeah, yeah, it’s hardly a movie, but this is MY list, gosh durnit! If I’m ever in a bad mood or in need of a pick-me-up, the lovable Jackass crew never, ever fails. Well, to be honest, ALL they do is fail, but I get to watch from the comfort and safety of my own home. What’s so special about the Jackass films is that to watch just anybody behave this way would be irritating, but watching these guys do it is sublime. As a fan since day one, I’ve watched these maniacs grow; watched their friendships develop. I know Dave England is a wuss. I know Bam hates snakes. I know that Steve-O vomits at the drop of a hat (or fart). But by 2006, I’m also keenly aware that the Jackasses aren’t so young anymore, and their bodies just can’t take the beating quite so hard. Add that to their natural (and very relative) maturity, and the movie just gets funnier. And since there is no plot to speak of, the viewing experience is stress free.
4. A movie that makes you sad: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008, dir. – Kurt Kuenne)
Go into this one blind and bring a box – no, two boxes – of tissues. Dear Zachary began when the director found out that his friend had been murdered, and that his friend’s ex-girlfriend was expecting the deceased man’s child. To say any more would be to deprive you of one of the greatest cinematic experiences you can have. It’s not an easy watch. The tragic story of repeated and soul-crushing injustice makes Making a Murderer look like Recess: The Movie. This is an absolute must-see. I love this movie with every fiber of my being and I will never, ever watch it again. Never ever ever. Nope. My body is not capable of producing that many tears.
5. Favorite cinematic love story: High Fidelity (2000, dir. – Stephen Frears)
Before you can love someone else, you must learn how to love yourself … and then you have to learn how to love someone else. What sticks with me about the romance at the center of High Fidelity is that it isn’t very romantic. This isn’t a story of boy meets girl, circumstances keep them apart, and then boy runs through traffic to meet girl at the last second to the sounds of The Gin Blossoms. No, this is a story about love as I know it; love as it actually is. Rob Gordon (John Cusack) is recently single, and now he’s looking back on his past relationships to see where it all went wrong. He is determined to find out what internal flaw he has that causes women to run screaming, but is oblivious to how selfish of a person he can be. Sure, he’s aware that pop music has given him unrealistic relationship expectations, but that goes for everybody, right? High Fidelity is my favorite love story because we get to watch Rob (who I find troublingly relatable) learn that love is about understanding and compromise. We watch him climb from a pit of selfish despair into an emotional space where maybe, just maybe, he’s capable of having a healthy relationship … and then we watch him attempt to find that relationship. It’s unlike any other film of this genre, and it’s just so durn funny.
25 to go! Tune in next week for:
– Favorite made for TV movie
– Favorite plot twist or ending
– Movie you’ve seen more than any other movie
– Movie with the best soundtrack
– Favorite “classic”
day 1 – The best movie you saw during the last year day 2 – The most underrated movie day 3 – A movie that makes you really happy day 4 – A movie that makes you sad day 5 – Favourite love story in a film day 6 – Favourite made for TV movie day 7 – The most surprising plot twist or ending day 8 – A movie that you’ve seen countless times day 9 – A movie with the best soundtrack day 10 – Favourite classic day 11 – A movie that changed your opinion about something day 12 – A Movie you hate day 13 – A movie that is a guilty pleasure day 14 – A movie that no one would expect you to love day 15 – A character that you can relate to the most day 16 – A movie you used to love but now hate day 17 – A Movie that disappointed you the most day 18 – A movie you wish more people would see day 19 – Favourite movie based on a book/comic day 20 – Favorite movie from your favourite actor day 21 – Favourite movie from your favourite actress day 22 – Favourite Action movie day 23 – Favourite Documentary day 24 – Favourite Animation day 25 – The most hilarious film you have seen day 26 – A movie you love but everyone else hates day 27 – A movie that you wish you had seen in theaters day 28 – Favourite movie from your favorite director day 29 – Favourite film from my childhood day 30 – Your favourite movie of all time