From the Archives: 30 Movie Challenge: The Final Chapter

From the Archives: 30 Movie Challenge: The Final Chapter

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 reached the end of the challenge. Thanks for keeping up! Here are the final five…HENRY CAVILL as Superman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “MAN OF STEEL,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

26. A movie that you love but everyone else hates: Man of Steel (2013, dir. – Zack Snyder)

The hatred for Man of Steel confounds me. It’s one thing to not enjoy it, but to hate it so angrily? I suspect standard-issue nerd rage is to blame here. While complaints of “it didn’t work for me” or “the tone was not what I wanted” would be valid, Man of Steeldetractors have instead chosen to attack the movie on a personal level, drawing a line in the sand as to what Superman should and shouldn’t be allowed to do, conveniently forgetting the fact that there have been decades of conflicting versions of Superman, and this is yet another. The cultural need to hate this film has resulted in some truly ludicrous criticisms. One critic I spoke with tried to rip the movie’s opening Krypton sequence apart by mocking Kryptonians use of winged beasts for transport when it’s clear that they have vehicles (I guess he forget about we Earthlings and our horses). Another complained of the Christ imagery as if it hadn’t already been a key part of Superman since pretty much forever. Heck, the desire to hate Man of Steel is so strong that someone released a YouTube video which condemns the dimmed color palette … in which they themselves dimmed the color palette further just to bolster their false observation (the film’s cinematographer proved this). Alas, haters gonna hate, and if it’s so important to prove your hatred that you have to reach this hard, so be it. And here I thought film was subjective.

Why do I love the movie so much, you ask? Because for the first time in the character’s history, I felt for Superman. His human upbringing resonated with me in a big way, and this has never been the case in any previous iteration. This Superman is flawed, just like all of us. Just like me. I’m not interested in a character that starts his journey in a state of perfection and never changes. I like that this version of Superman, as powerful as he is, has been put into a lose/lose situation and forced to make impossible decisions. I like that he makes mistakes. I like that he realizes his existence in and of itself is a big problem. I like that Lois Lane, for the first time ever, isn’t a complete idiot, incapable of seeing past a pair of glasses. I like that Zod (who Superman has killed plenty of times before) isn’t just blindly evil. The action is some of the best I’ve ever seen, and as for all that death – well that was the point, dingus. Massive destruction was supposed to happen. These are gods fighting in the realms of men (which is a perfect elevator pitch for much of DC’s canon), and if you pay attention to the choreography of the final fight, Superman consistently works to move the it away from civilians (but I guess that’s only sufficient when Iron Man does it, eh?).

But all reverse-nerd-rage aside, the reason I love Man of Steel is that every single time I watch it, I feel inspired to be a better person. I may never be Superman, but I’d like to be a super man.


27. A movie that you wish you had seen in theaters: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, dir. – Stanley Kubrick)

I’ve seen this one on the big screen, but if I could travel back in time, I’d love to see it on opening night, free of any preconceptions. Can you imagine the mind-blowery that must have occurred?!?!? I’d give anything to be a part of that conversation. We’ve had years to let 2001 roll around in our cultural consciousness, and it most certainly has helped newcomers to find the film more accessible, but that original audience got to be the lab rats. They got to witness cinema changing overnight, and I, for one, am jealous.


28. Favorite movie from your favorite director: Barton Fink (1991, dir. – Joel & Ethan Coen)

In the interest of avoiding a double entry at the end of this list, I give you my favorite movie from my SECOND favorite director(s). Writer’s block is the singular most frustrating thing on the planet, and nothing exacerbates it more than a deadline.  There is bliss in writing, but writer’s block can suddenly turn the creative process into a very special hell. It’s downright scary sometimes, and Barton Fink captures this in a surreal-yet-literal way. The Coens have a gift for exorcising their creative struggles through art, and Barton Fink does it best. The script is funny and awkward in the way that only the Coens can write, but it’s also downright terrifying. There is a syrupy sense of dread hanging over the entire film, and I found it impossible to shake for weeks after my initial viewing. Picking a favorite Coen Brothers film is like picking a favorite child, but even so, Barton Fink is the only entry in their body of work that has caused me to lose sleep.


29. A movie from your childhood: The Sandlot (1993, dir. – David M. Evans)

Take anyone my age plus or minus five years and use the word “forever” in front of them. I guarantee that they will immediately conjure Squints putting the finishing touches on his spooky tall tale. “For-ev-er, FOR … EV … ER!” If you’re lucky, they’ll even say it out loud. The Sandlot was a pivotal film in my youth, and remains the best child-oriented coming-of-age movie in existence. The trick of The Sandlot is that it takes place in the 1950s. As such, my parents found it as relatable as I did. And since the rag tag group of kids at the center of the film are all such fun characters I’d be happy to share this one with younger generations too. I suspect that the film will continue having hand-me-down value for a very long time.


30. Your favorite movie of all time: Boogie Nights (1997, dir. – Paul Thomas Anderson)

Nothing makes me happier than movies about movies. Boogie Nights is a movie about movies. It chronicles the effects of a shifting medium on the art and artists working within it. It also tells the story of a specific place and time. It’s also a study of greed, celebrity, porn culture, drug culture, dreams vs reality, personal identity, familial bonds, parenting, friendship, sexual orientation, and social privilege. Despite being chock full of theme, the film isn’t weighed down by it. Not even a little. For a 2.5 hour movie, Boogie Nights never stops moving, and never stops being entertaining. It can be shocking and upsetting, but it’s almost always hilarious. It can be truthful and honest, but it’s also heightened to a level borderline parody. The cast is the finest ensemble ever assembled. The soundtrack is pitch perfect. The editing is whip-smart without being distracting, and the technical acuity of every shot is breathtaking, doubly so when you consider that this was all made by a kid in his early twenties.

The Alfred Molina/botched drug deal scene is where Boogie Nights truly exhibits perfection. The tension reaches a boiling point pretty early into this sequence, but sly humor keeps it from bubbling over until the exact proper moment. If it weren’t so damn entertaining, it would be positively unbearable. There’s a single, static shot of Dirk Diggler in which he goes from a state of confidence to a state of stupor to a state of “we need to get the hell out of here right now!” Wahlberg barely moves, but the marriage between prefect direction, perfect scene structure, and a perfect performance result in the most unforgettable 10-15 seconds in cinema. It’s pure magic, and I’ve never seen it beat.

Boogie Nights is that movie that, even at such a ridiculous length, demands to be watched to the end anytime I stumble across it. I’ve lost many a Sunday to its charms, and that’s fine by me.

I hope everyone enjoyed the 30 Movie Challenge! Post your list entries in the comments…

Previous entries:

Part 1 (1-5) Part 2 (6-10) Part 3 (11-15) Part 4 (16-20) Part 5 (21-25)

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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