From the Archives: 30 Movie Challenge: Part 5

From the Archives: 30 Movie Challenge: Part 5

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. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

We’ve hit the homestretch of the 30 Movie Challenge! Only one more week to go!image1(4)

21. Favorite movie from your favorite actress: Cate Blanchett – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004 – dir. Wes Anderson)

Cate Blanchett is the tops. She can do anything: prestige, fantasy, horror, comedy, biopic – Anything. She’s Queen Elizabeth, she’s an Indiana Jones villain, and she’s the best Bob Dylan outside of Bob Dylan. She is already established as one of the greats, and with her versatility and talent, I see no reason why she won’t continue being amongst the best. But her work is not without its criticisms. Chiefly amongst these criticisms is the accusation that Blanchett gives 120% when 100% will do. And while I don’t necessarily disagree, I don’t find her inclination the heighten things to ever be at the expense of a film’s reality.

Regardless, my favorite Blanchett role is one in which she’s a bit more subdued: Jane Winslett-Richardson in The Life Aquatic. Blanchett shines as the troubled, but relatively normal reporter tasked with covering the Zissou team’s exploits. In many ways she’s the moral anchor of the film, while also playing steady straight-man to a sea of bizarre characters. It’s a role that could cause a lesser performer to dissolve into being a simple placeholder, but Blanchett, as to be expected, makes the character complete. Honorable mention to her dual role in Coffee & Cigarettes.

Die_Hard-056 AQU082-056

22. Favorite action movie: Die Hard (1988, dir. – John McTiernan)

Die Hard is the best action movie ever made. It is an indisputable fact, and anyone who disagrees deserves to be placed shoeless into a room covered in broken glass. Die Hardis the reigning champ of action, and nothing has even come remotely close. Yes, there are better action sequences in other movies. Yes, there are a lot of poopy sequels that threaten to dilute Die Hard‘s legacy, but taken as a singular entity, Die Hard is the gold standard by which all action/thriller/Bruce Willis movies is measured. Alan Rickman is the greatest film villain ever. Bonnie Bedelia is the greatest “action hero wife” ever. The relationship between McClane and Al (Reginald “Urkel-Cop” VelJohnson) is the best bromance ever.

“Hans! Bubby!” <– THAT LINE.



23. Favorite documentary: Grizzly Man (2005, dir. – Werner Herzog)

 This is my favorite documentary of all time because it is the only one I’ve seen in which the subject and the narrator are completely at odds. Timothy Treadwell sees nature as inherently friendly. He feels that with the right mixture of caution, assertion, and love, he can master the intimidating chaos of the natural world. Herzog, however, sees nature as a cruel, finicky beast which, despite all of its beauty, will rip you to shreds at the first sign of lowered vigilance. The footage captured by Treadwell juxtaposed with Herzog’s narration plays as a frequently comical philosophical argument heightened by the fact that Treadwell is eventually eaten by bears. Add to that the clear respect that Herzog has for the extreme filmmaking on display, and Grizzly Man takes shape as so much more than just “the movie where that crazy dude is eaten by bears.”


24. Favorite animated movie: A Town Called Panic (2009, dir. – Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar)

 I’m a Pixar fan, for sure, but with their films being so weighty with theme, I find them to be less accessible than most. If I don’t see a Pixar film theatrically, I usually don’t end up seeing it at all. Just not my thing, I guess. I often wonder if it’s because I’m a member of the last generation which saw cartoons strictly as kids’ fare. Nowadays, animation runs the entire age-spectrum, with much of it being solely for adults. It’s a wonderful thing, but man do I have some fond memories of afternoons spent with watching Looney Tunes.

A Town Called Panic captures that feeling perfectly. It’s a simple story: Cowboy and Indian want to surprise Horse for his birthday … but they order too many bricks and destroy Horse’s house. Now they must go on a panic-stricken adventure to right their wrongs and properly honor Horse’s big day. It’s manic in a way that most animated fare just isn’t anymore. The right measures of humor and surrealism make this high-speed adventure supremely watchable and endlessly rewatchable.


25. The most hilarious movie you’ve ever seen: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985, dir. – Tim Burton)

 It amazes me to this day that a character as strange as Pee-Wee could have become such a cultural phenomenon. Try to imagine pitching this character to a writer’s room. I can’t think of a way to describe him outside of “somewhere on the spectrum.” But regardless of how the spark occurred, it’s easy to see how Pee-Wee has endured. I’ve seen Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure many, many times, and it still elicits belly-laughs. Every time I revisit it I find myself in stitches over gags I’ve always loved, gags I’d forgotten, and gags I’d never noticed before.

Directed by the hungry, creative Tim Burton (RIP) from a script by Paul Reubens and the late, great Phil Hartman, Big Adventure is the right mix of cheery fun and subversive strangeness. Heck, as a child I was TERRIFIED of Large Marge … yet enchanted the zaniness which allows Large Marge to exist. There is quite simply no other movie like it. Never has this tone been recreated (sorry, Big Top Pee-Wee) nor has any similarly unique character found such broad appeal. Pee-Wee is a marvelously fascinating concept, and Big Adventure utilizes it perfectly. And it is just so so so so so funny.

“Paging Mister Herman! Mister Herman, you have a telephone call at the front desk.” Just typing that line had me laughing out loud.

Tune in next week for the final five!

Previous entries:

Part 1 (1-5) Part 2 (6-10) Part 3 (11-15)Part 4 (16-20)

Full list:

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

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