Tag: Alien

Top 100 Films (2013 Edition): Part 4 of 5

40. The Grapes of Wrath

I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.

The quotes will be getting longer, probably, as this and the next entry go along because the movies are getting better and the scripts are usually a large part of that for me. That isn’t to say that the director has little say, of course, and this being the third John Ford movie on the list it’s pretty clear that I like the guy. I like this movie better than the book upon which it is based, in fact, because Ford brings his understanding of the harsh surroundings for which family is the only salve to the table and does so wonderfully. And you can’t go wrong with Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

39. Sunshine

At the end of time, a moment will come when just one man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here… but stardust.

How fantastic are the visuals for this film? They’re so great that the oft-maligned third act is redeemed by the last five minutes based on their beauty alone. A film about the immense power of the Sun and our understanding of our place in nature being thrown off balance by it must make channel that power effectively to work and Sunshine does through the use of some amazing visuals and clever sound design.

38. Halloween

I- I- I watched him for fifteen years, sitting in a room, staring at a wall, not seeing the wall, looking past the wall – looking at this night, inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger him off. Death has come to your little town, Sheriff. Now you can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it.

Last year I watched the predecessor to this film, the real start to the slasher genre, Black Christmas. That film has a lot of fun elements and some which are clearly given homage four years later in Halloween, including the first person perspective for the opening sequence and the young woman protagonists. Still, Halloween is a much more accomplished film, one which gets many of its scares not from loud noises nor sudden appearances but rather solid filmmaking and a constant sense of dread. There’s a reason why it is often shown on the holiday that gives it its name, and it’s not just the coincidence. The movie gets the feeling of the season very right and is maybe the quintessential fall movie.

37. I’m Not There.

You know, saying ’cause of peace’, it’s like saying, ‘hunk of butter’, you know, I don’t want you to listen to anybody who wants you to believe is dedicated to the hunk and not the butter.

Bob Dylan deserves no less than this films fractured portrayal for his biographical film. The man has undergone so many transformations that each of the seven characters here could play dual roles and still not cover all of his bases. Highlights include everyone, plus the excellent soundtrack with covers by modern indie bands. Each of the versions also gets a genre of their own to play around in, echoing Dylan’s own dalliances in various sounds and spaces.

36. Scream

Did we ever find out why Hannibal Lector liked to eat people? DON’T THINK SO. See it’s a lot scarier when there’s no motive.

Scream not only works quite well as one of those slasher films inspired by Halloween and its ilk, it also effectively and hilariously skewers them and their audiences with a good dose of post-modern commentary provided by the media saturated characters in the film itself. There’s so much greatness underneath the surface that it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much fun the film is and how scary some scenes are. The movie even follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by having several sequels which pale in comparison to the film that started it all.

35. The Night of the Hunter

I can hear you whisperin’ children, so I know you’re down there. I can feel myself gettin’ awful mad. I’m out of patience children. I’m coming to find you now.

Perhaps the biggest cinematic mistake was the critical drubbing this movie received upon its release which warned Charles Laughton to stay away from directing any other movies. It’s a shame that this wonder of a first film was never followed up since Laughton shows a clear skill for making fairy tale stories in an expressive and dangerous style, and for getting great performances from some kids and the likes of Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish as opposing forces in those kids lives. The dark shadows and artificially beautiful sets heighten the fantastic vibe that pulses throughout this film.

34. 12 Monkeys

Telephone call? Telephone call? That’s communication with the outside world. Doctor’s discretion. Nuh-uh. Look, hey – all of these nuts could just make phone calls, they could spread insanity, oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all these poor sane people, infecting them. Wackos everywhere, plague of madness.

Terry Gilliam is a director that doesn’t hold back, ever. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes you get Tideland, which I couldn’t stand for longer than 20 minutes. 12 Monkeys is one of the good times. It uses Gilliam’s penchant for wackiness to its advantage by presenting the “present” to an outsider, a time traveler, so he can be just as confused and scared as we probably should be at some of the insane things that we just ignore on a daily basis. It’s also a really great time travel movie and has an early standout performance from Brad Pitt.

33. Punch-Drunk Love

I didn’t do anything. I’m a nice man. I mind my own business. So you tell me ‘that’s that’ before I beat the hell from you. I have so much strength in me you have no idea. I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine. I would say ‘that’s that’, Mattress Man.

What could be seen as a small detour between the sprawling movies early in his career and the more focused but no less epic later two films is actually an astute character study by Paul Thomas Anderson which takes a character that might be at home in Magnolia and treats him like Daniel Plainview or either of the two men at the center of The Master. It works as a bridge between those later, more serious films and the wide-eyed energy of the earlier movies and features a spectacular romance that basically takes the cop-and-druggie story from Magnolia and blows it up to feature length. It’s so great.

32. The World’s End

I remember sitting up there, blood on my knuckles, beer down my shirt, sick on my shoes and seeing the orange glow of a new dawn break and knowing in my heart life would never feel this good again. And you know what? It never did.

Yes, all three of the Cornetto trilogy of films directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost made my list this year, including this year’s entry, the sci-fi action/buddy comedy of The World’s End. It’s the strongest of the three films when it comes to style and theme, and the characters are just perfectly played and written. The beginning of the film tells you exactly what’s going to happen and it’s still a delight to go along with this ride. And the action is spectacular.

31. 2001: A Space Odyssey 

I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.

Though it took 45 years to happen, Gravity finally improved upon Kubrick’s vision of space. That film is a spectacle of the highest order but it lacks the absurdly brilliant thematic and story concerns that lift 2001 above the rest of the field. It’s a truly singular film, tracing technological warfare and humanity’s reaction to things it doesn’t understand throughout history and into the future. And if HAL singing about a bicycle fit for two while slowly ceasing to exist isn’t horror I don’t know what is.

30. A Serious Man

You understand the dead cat? But… you… you can’t really understand the physics without understanding the math. The math tells how it really works. That’s the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they’re like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean – even I don’t understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works.

A not-entirely serious movie, A Serious Man is the Coen brothers at their very best. It’s so well studied in its time and place and the characters are at once unique and relatable. A man’s marriage is falling apart, along with the rest of his life and everybody to whom he reaches for support is unhelpful or actively working against him. No Country for Old Men won all the awards, but A Serious Man remains their best movie in a decade.

29. Jaws

So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

What is left to be said about Jaws? It’s nearly perfectly constructed and spawned a whole new kind of movie, the summer blockbuster. It’s horror and adventure and a bit of family drama all wrapped up in one, and it’s shot with an impeccable eye. I don’t think Spielberg has ever reached this level of iconic, painterly composition again since the summer of ’75.

28. Three Comrades

I drink to us, the three of us. Not from day to day now. From year to year.

This is not the first Borzage movie to make the list nor will it be his last. Three Comrades is the best of his talkies and is a wonderful little movie about friendship and romance and life changing circumstances. Margaret Sullavan (in her third appearance on this list) is typically great and Robert Young does a wonderful job. It’s so lovely and sad.

27. The Thing

I know what you mean, Blair. Trust’s a tough thing to come by these days. Tell you what – why don’t you just trust in the Lord?

Isolation and an inability to trust anybody will lead to the most intense paranoia captured on film if John Carpenter is to be relied upon for such things. The Thing maintains that high-strung tension throughout its runtime and continues to scare 30 years later thanks to his wonderful direction and some of the best creature design I’ve ever seen. And Kurt Russell armed with a flamethrower and an awesome hat is nothing to scoff at, either.

26. Before Midnight

I am giving you my whole life ok? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Ok? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.

Three movies released this year might be blasphemous on other lists but I take no time considerations into account. If I see a movie that I think is great, I’m going to put it on my list, not wait a few years to see how it’ll settle. If Before Midnight slides off of this list, or off of it, in the coming years, so be it. But the 2013 list is a reflection of the movies I loved in 2013, and Before Midnight, the third of the Before trilogy which follows the young love, reunion, and now the ramifications of a marriage with kids and time taking their tolls on Celine and Jesse, is one of the movies that I love right now.

25. The Lion in Winter

I’ve snapped and plotted all my life. There’s no other way to be alive, king, and fifty all at once.

Like Doubt, an earlier entry on this list, The Lion in Winter is a shouty movie based on a play that takes a certain historical scenario and turns it into a fountain of ideas battling through words instead of swords. Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn are amazing as the feuding royal family heads, each jockeying for their favorite son to take control of the throne. The words and the way that these actors say them are the real treats of this film, it’s almost too much fun to watch this family tear each other apart.

24. The Royal Tenenbaums

I think we’re just gonna to have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that, Richie.

And look, another family in turmoil. Though this one was never really together to begin with. It’s the first Wes Anderson movie I ever saw and I can’t say I liked it. I revisited the film after appreciating Anderson’s later works and the scales fell from my eyes or something like that. Anyways, I really liked the movie and could finally get into Anderson’s persnickety style of filmmaking and writing.

23. Alien

I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.

The title of this film doesn’t just refer the the killing machine that terrorizes the crew of the Nostromo for much of the movie. It’s also a reference to the cold, inhospitable nature of space and the environments in which these weak humans find themselves. No, nothing here is ordinary. Ridley Scott creates an uncommon sense of terror based around superb sound design and his background as a set designer. The world of Alien feels real and alive, though that life is murderous

22. Adaptation. 

Yeah but it’s easier for plants. I mean they have no memory. They just move on to whatever’s next. With a person though, adapting almost shameful. It’s like running away.

Given the task of adapting Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief, Charlie Kaufman found himself at a loss. So instead of presenting her story at face value, he wrote a movie which starred him and Susan and his imaginary twin brother and folded in on itself a few times. It’s a brilliantly confusing work, but it also has a beating heart which shines through the murk of cleverness. The emotions are real, which makes all the silliness surrounding them even more effective and astounding.

21. Jurassic Park

John, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is… it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is.

Earlier in this section I stated that Jaws was Spielberg’s best movie, formally speaking. While that is likely true, it’s still doesn’t compare to the feat he pulled off with Jurassic Park. The sheer imagination and cine-craft that went into bringing the dinosaurs to life for this movie combine to illustrate exactly why movies are so wonderful. They give us pictures and sounds we can believe in, if done well enough, and can show us things that can’t or haven’t or couldn’t exist. I finally got to see this movie on the big screen this year thanks to a 3D re-release and it was everything I ever wanted from a movie.

Europa Report

Europa Report is a movie that stands among the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Sunshine as a quintessential space exploration movie. It gets so much so right that, even though it was released on VOD, it deserves to be as well loved as those movies, both of which appear in my top 100 list. It comes out of nowhere and wallops you with scientific accuracy heightened by a captivating story and solid performances on a tiny budget. This is what movies can be now. We are living in a golden age.

But let’s not talk about all that yet. Let’s talk about another indie sci-fi movie. Primer is widely hailed as being a realistic and accurate portrayal of both the science involved in time travel and the people that might undertake such a quest. I think it’s insufferable, from the mumbly acting to the near complete lack of drama and emotional involvement. Europa Report is proof positive that scientific accuracy does not require stuffiness. The people in Europa Report joke and get lonely and cry and smile with each other as they rocket towards one of Jupiter’s moons. These, too, are scientists on a grand journey (22 months one way) and are professionals at their jobs. Nobody here feels like the crew of the Nostromo because we’re still in the early phase of space exploration while those Alien guys were basically long haul truckers and old hat at the whole space thing. Of course, things go wrong on this quest and the distance takes its toll. As the film goes on we see a crew struggling to keep themselves together in the face of astronomical obstacles. All of the actors feel very real to the kinds of people that might be sent on a mission like this one, the first mission beyond the moon. Sharlto Copley and Anamaria Marinca are the highlights here, imbuing their characters with such realness in a situation that throws humanity into sharp contrast with the void and the alien.

The story and script, too, do a wonderful job of probing the audience as they watch the astronauts probe into the unknown. Early on we know that things do not go off without a hitch. The film starts with the communications breaking, effectively marooning Europa One, the ship, from the rest of the earth. That happens about 8 months into the trip and is a turning point of sorts. We then cut back to the launch and see the optimism and wonder that a grand expedition such as this would. It’s a pretty great recruitment poster for space travel, at least early on. In fact, even later when everything is going wrong the scientists still marvel at the unfolding universe. Throughout the film the characters get into philosophical discussions about whether or not finding proof of extinction on Europa would count towards a bet on there being life in Europa’s seas, among other things. It’s an optimistic film with some inevitable tragic elements. The end of the film colors the loss incurred during the trip with the knowledge gained. That’s a hard thing to pull off and it takes a steady set of hands to guide that ship to a safe landing.

The final grand achievement of this film is the look and feel of the film. Its construction is a thing of beauty, gracefully cutting back and forth in the timeline of events to show us, for example, an early spacewalk to contrast with a later one, the events of the first weighing heavily on the second and heightening the already tense situation to great heights. And the movie even mostly takes place in two or three rooms, all aboard the spaceship with a few talking heads from one of the scientists on board and some of the team back on earth guiding them. The living areas of the ship are jam packed with cameras, the footage from which forms the majority of the film. Any other bits are shot via character-held cameras or helmet-cams. It’s a found footage movie better than any others in the genre as these recordings were compiled into a documentary detailing the events of the trip for public consumption. Don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s amateurish, though, as director Sebastián Cordero gets some beautiful shots out of these semi-static camera angles. This is not just a well researched movie, it’s a well made one, too. Perhaps the greatest idea Cordero has is to mount cameras inside the helmets of the space-walk suits and frame them closer than I’ve ever seen before. The eye acting here is spectacular, covering up any small-seeming sets with an imagined awe that sells the whole movie in a look. Europa, when they get there, feels so strange and so uncannily familiar at the same time. It’s just a big ball of ice. But that big ball of ice is so great, so grand in importance and the trip to reach it so fraught with uncertainty and peril, all of which is captured wonderfully by Cordero and company.

Top 100 Films List (2012 edition)

Surprise bonus list! Every year I revise my top movies list and this year I didn’t spend much time on the ordering, outside adding in ten new movies and dropping out ten old movies. The new movies are underlined. Click the movie title if it’s a link for a full review. I decided to not go into the full detail that I did last year, because those are still available for you to peruse at your leisure. I did pick out a new quote for each entry, though, so I hope you still enjoy it. Here we go.

100. Scream

“Sidney, how does it feel to be almost brutally butchered? People want to know. They have a right to know! How does it feel?”

99. This is Spinal Tap

“May I start by saying how thrilled we are to have you here. We are such fans of your music and all of your records. I’m not speaking of yours personally, but the whole genre of the rock and roll.”

98. A Serious Man

“You understand the dead cat? But… you… you can’t really understand the physics without understanding the math. The math tells how it really works. That’s the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they’re like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean – even I don’t understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works.”

97. The Lion in Winter

“You’re so deceitful you can’t ask for water when you’re thirsty. We could tangle spiders in the webs you weave.”

96. The Fly

“I’m saying… I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake.”

95. All the President’s Men

“You’re both paranoid. She’s afraid of John Mitchell, and you’re afraid of Walter Cronkite.”

94. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

“You could have dinner with us… my brother makes good head cheese! You like head cheese?”

93. Mother

“There’s a meridian point that can loosen the knots in your heart and clear all horrible memories from you mind.”

92. Days of Heaven

“You know how people are. You tell them something, they start talking.”

91. Exit Through the Gift Shop

“I think the joke is on… I don’t know who the joke’s on – really. I don’t even know if there is a joke.”

90. To Kill a Mockingbird

“There just didn’t seem to be anyone or anything Atticus couldn’t explain. Though it wasn’t a talent that would arouse the admiration of any of our friends, Jem and I had to admit he was very good at that – but that was *all* he was good at… we thought.”

89. Apocalypto

“I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky. My Father hunted this forest before me. My name is Jaguar Paw. I am a hunter. This is my forest. And my sons will hunt it with their sons after I am gone.”

88. Once

“What’s the Czech for “Do you love him”?”

87. How Green Was My Valley

“Everything I ever learnt as a small boy came from my father, and I never found anything he ever told me to be wrong or worthless. The simple lessons he taught me are as sharp and clear in my mind as if I had heard them only yesterday.”

86. Punch-Drunk Love

“I have to get more pudding for this trip to Hawaii. As I just said that out loud I realize it sounded a little strange but it’s not.”

85. Paths of Glory

“I apologize… for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!”

84. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

“Maybe you don’t have to do this all by yourself, mate.”

83. Manhattan

“I had a mad impulse to throw you down on the lunar surface and commit interstellar perversion.”

82. In Bruges

“Number One, why aren’t you in when I fucking told you to be in? Number Two, why doesn’t this hotel have phones with fucking voicemail and not have to leave messages with the fucking receptionist? Number Three, you better fucking be in tomorrow night when I fucking call again or there’ll be fucking hell to pay. I’m fucking telling you – Harry.”

81. The Godfather

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my boy to me?”

80. Metropolis

“There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

79. A Fish Called Wanda

“To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I’ve known sheep that could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?”

78. The Proposition

“I know where Arthur Burns is. It is a God-forsaken place. The blacks won’t go there, not the tracks; not even wild men. I suppose, in time, the bounty hunters will get him. But I have other plans, I aim to bring him down – I aim to show that he’s a man like any other. I aim to hurt him.”

77. Repulsion

“I must get this crack mended.”

76. The Shop Around the Corner

“Well I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a hand-bag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.”

75. Hot Fuzz

“You wanna be a big cop in a small town? Fuck off up the model village.”

74. The Conversation

“I’m not following you, I’m looking for you. There’s a big difference.”

73. RoboCop

“Let me make something clear to you. He doesn’t have a name. He has a program. He’s product.”

72. Young Mr. Lincoln

“I may not know much of law Mr. Felder, but I know what’s right and what’s wrong. And I know what you’re asking is wrong.”

71. Brazil

“Listen, this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6… Bloody paperwork.”

70. Eyes Wide Shut

“I have seen one or two things in my life but never, never anything like this.”

69. The General

“Heroes of the day.”

68. Catch Me If You Can

“For the last six months, he’s gone to Harvard and Berkeley. I’m betting he can get a passport.”

67. A Streetcar Named Desire

“But some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable! It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty.”

66. Synecdoche, New York

“I know how to do the play now. It will all take place over the course of one day. And that day will be the day before you died. That day was the happiest day of my life. Then I’ll be able to live it forever. See you soon.”

65. Moonrise Kingdom

“I love you, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

64. The Mortal Storm

“I’ve never prized safety, Erich, either for myself or my children. I prized courage.”

63. The Truman Show

“If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him.”

62. The Night of the Living Dead

“We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn’t going to solve anything.”

61. The Brothers Bloom

“This was a story about a girl who could find infinite beauty in anything, any little thing, and even love the person she was trapped with. And i told myself this story until it became true. Now, did doing this help me escape a wasted life? Or did it blind me so I didn’t want to escape it? I don’t know, but either way I was the one telling my own story…”

60. The Wicker Man

“You’ll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice.”

59. Children of Men

“And now one for all the nostalgics out there. A blast from the past all the way back from 2003, that beautiful time when people refused to accept that the future was just around the corner.”

58. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

“Demon! What are you waiting for? This is what you want, isn’t it? Look at it. The last of its kind. Like you and I. If you destroy it, the world will never see its kind again… You have more in common with us than with them.”

57. The Quiet Man

“No patty-fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times. Hold on to your hats.”

56. Fantastic Mr. Fox

“Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?”

55. 7th Heaven

“I work in a sewer but I live near the stars.”

54. 2001: A Space Odyssey

“I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”

53. The Incredibles

“No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for… for ten minutes!”

52. A History of Violence

“This isn’t a completely dead eye, it still works a bit. The problem is, the only thing I can see with it is Joey Cusack, and it can see right through him… right through your husband, Edie. I see what’s inside him, what makes him tick. He’s still the same guy. He’s still crazy fucking Joey! And you know it, don’t you? How much do you really know about your husband, Edie? Where he’s from, where he’s been, his life before he met you some 20 years ago?”

51. Mulholland Dr.

“It’ll be just like in the movies. Pretending to be somebody else.”

50. Out of Sight

“I’ve, uh, vertically integrated myself. You know, diversified and shit, and now I’m into the occasional grand larceny, home invasion… shit like that.”

49. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Hold fast to the human inside of you, and you’ll survive”

48. The Grapes of Wrath

“Tom, you gotta learn like I’m learnin’. I don’t know it right yet myself. That’s why I can’t ever be a preacher again. Preachers gotta know. I don’t know. I gotta ask.”

47. The Social Network

“I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”

46. The Prestige

“You never understood, why we did this. The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something really special… you really don’t know?… it was… it was the look on their faces…”

45. Die Hard

“You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?”

44. Chinatown

“After you’ve worked with a man a certain length of time, you come to know his habits, his values – you come to know him – and either he’s the kind who chases after women or he isn’t.”

43. Where the Wild Things Are

“Happiness isn’t always the best way to be happy.”

42. Throne of Blood

“Admirable, my Lord. You, who would soon rule the world, allow a ghost to frighten you.”

41. My Darling Clementine

“I ain’t gonna kill you. I hope you live a hundred years… so you’ll feel just a little what my pa’s gonna feel. Now get out of town – start wandering!”

40. 12 Angry Men

“Well, I’m not used to supposin’. I’m just a workin’ man. My boss does all the supposin’ – but I’ll try one. Supposin’ you talk us all out of this and, uh, the kid really did knife his father?”

39. Black Swan

“Perfect? I’m not perfect. I’m nothing.”

38. Reservoir Dogs

“If you shoot this man, you die next. Repeat. If you shoot this man, you die next.”

37. Zodiac

“Do you know more people die in the East Bay commute every three months than that idiot ever killed? He offed a few citizens, wrote a few letters, then faded into footnote… Not that I haven’t been sitting here idly, waiting for you to drop by and reinvigorate my sense of purpose”

36. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

“I tell him about destiny; he’s shaking his head. About dreamgirls; he doesn’t care. I mention the underwear thing? He has a *fucking conniption*. And you? How ’bout it, filmgoer? Have you solved the case of the – the dead people in L.A.? Times Square audiences, please don’t shout at the screen, and stop picking at that, it’ll just get worse.”

35. The Thing

“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

34. North by Northwest

“Now you listen to me, I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself “slightly” killed.”

33. Princess Mononoke

“Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It’s eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster!”

32. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

“Liberty Valance defeated. D-E-F-E-E… T-E-D? The unsteady hand betrays. What’s the matter, Mr. Peabody? Are you afraid? The answer is indub… yes. No courage left. Well, courage can be purchased at yon tavern. But have we credit? That is the question. Have we credit? Well, credit is cheap. Wait for me, old servant of the public wheel. Our shining hour is yet to come. As for you, Horace Greeley, go west, old man, and grow young with the country.”

31. Hoop Dreams

“Four years ago that’s all I used to dream about was playing in the NBA. I don’t really dream about it like that anymore. You know, even through I love playing basketball, you know I want to do other things with my life too.”

30. 127 Hours

“Aron from Loser Canyon, Utah. How do you know so much? Well, I’ll tell you how I know so much. I volunteer for the rescue service. You see, I’m something of a… well, a big fucking hard hero. And I can do everything on my own, you see? I do see! Now… Is it true that despite, or maybe because you’re a big fucking hard hero… you didn’t tell anyone where you were going? Yeah. That’s absolutely correct. Anyone…? Anyone. Oops… Oops. Oops.”

29. The Night of the Hunter

“You know, when you’re little, you have more endurance than God is ever to grant you again. Children are man at his strongest. They abide.”

28. Fargo

“There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”

27. Sunshine

“For seven years I spoke with God. He told me to take us all to Heaven.”

26. Inglourious Basterds

“I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing.”

25. Halloween

“I watched him for fifteen years, sitting in a room, staring at a wall, not seeing the wall, looking past the wall – looking at this night, inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger him off. Death has come to your little town, Sheriff. Now you can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it.”

24. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

“Well, if you’ll pardon my saying so, I guess it is interesting, the many ways you and I overlap and whatnot. You begin with our Daddies. Your daddy was a pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church; my daddy was a pastor of a church at Excelsior Springs. Um. You’re the youngest of the three James boys; I’m the youngest of the five Ford boys. Between Charley and me, is another brother, Wilbur here, with six letters in his name; between Frank and you was a brother, Robert, also with six letters. Robert is my Christian name. You have blue eyes; I have blue eyes. You’re five feet eight inches tall. I’m five feet eight inches tall. Oh me, I must’ve had a list as long as your nightshirt when I was twelve, but I’ve lost some curiosities over the years.”

23. Shaun of the Dead

“Lizzy, how can you put your faith in a man you spectacularly binned for being unreliable? A man whose idea of a romantic nightspot and an impenetrable fortress are the same thing? It’s… This is a pub! We are in a pub! What are we going to do now?”

22. Fantasia

“What you will see on the screen is a picture of the various abstract images that might pass through your mind if you sat in a concert hall listening to this music. At first, you’re more or less conscious of the orchestra. So our picture opens with a series of impressions of the conductor and the players. Then the music begins to suggest other things to your imagination. They might be, oh, just masses of color or they may be cloud forms or great landscapes or vague shadows or geometrical objects floating in space”

21. The Lady Eve

“You don’t happen to be a mouthpiece, do you? You talk like a law school.”

20. Toy Story 3

“Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he’ll never give up on you… ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.”

19. His Girl Friday

“Walter, you’re wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way.”

18. The Exorcist

“Have you ever heard of exorcism? Well, it’s a stylized ritual in which the rabbi or the priest try to drive out the so-called invading spirit. It’s been pretty much discarded these days except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of an embarrassment, but uh, it has worked. In fact, although not for the reasons they think, of course. It’s purely a force of suggestion. The victim’s belief in possession is what helped cause it, so in that same way, a belief in the power of exorcism can make it disappear.”

17. The Long Day Closes

“Erosion is the cumulative effect of a great variety of processes – full stop. In general, these can be divided into five groups. One. River erosion. Two. Rain erosion. Three. Glacial erosion. Four. Wind erosion. And five. marine erosion. Life also cooperates in the work of destruction.”

16. The Fall

“What a mystery this world, one day you love them and the next day you want to kill them a thousand times over.”

15. Three Comrades

“So long as you don’t give in, you’re bigger than what happens to you.”

14. Miller’s Crossing

“All in all not a bad guy – if looks, brains and personality don’t count.”

13. Adaptation

“You and I share the same DNA. Is there anything more lonely than that?”

12. Jaws

“You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

11. City of God

“A kid? I smoke, I snort. I’ve killed and robbed. I’m a man.”

10. The Searchers

“Well, Reverend, that tears it! From now on, you stay out of this. All of ya. I don’t want you with me. I don’t need ya for what I got to do.”

9. Alien

“I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”

8. Lucky Star

“You’re a cannibal and a dirty, no-good low-down little thief!”

7. Jurassic Park

“You never had control, that’s the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. But I made a mistake, too, I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now. The only thing that matters now are the people we love. Alan and Lex and Tim. John, they’re out there where people are dying.”

6. The Shining

“I think a lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years. And not all of ’em was good.”

5. There Will Be Blood

“Drainage! Drainage, Eli! Drained dry, you boy! If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and I have a straw and my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!”

4. Blade Runner

“Not very sporting to fire on an unarmed opponent. I thought you were supposed to be good. Aren’t you the “good” man? C’mon, Deckard. Show me what you’re made of.”

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark

“You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.”

2. Pan’s Labyrinth

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”

1. Magnolia

“Want to know the common element for the entire group?… I’ll tell you the answer: I’ll tell you, ’cause I had that one. I had that question… Carbon. Carbon. In pencil lead, it’s in the form of graphite and in coal, it’s mixed up with other impurities and in the diamond it’s in hard form. “Well… all we were asking was the common element, Donnie… but thank you for all that unnecessary knowledge… haha, kids! Heads so full of useless knowledge. Thank you. Thank you.” And the book says: “We may be through with the past… but the past is not through with us!” And… no, it is not dangerous to confuse children with angels!”

Movie Review: Prometheus

It’s been a long time since there was an epic space film released in theaters. Avatar three years ago is probably the closest but it had the problem of not being a good film. Everything else in space has been intimate and narrowly focused. We’ve been lacking something large and smart like 2001: A Space Odyssey far too long. Ridley Scott heard our cries and made a movie that’s epic in scope and thematic ambition with the execution to match. Can Prometheus end the arguments about prequels being completely unnecessary now? Scott builds the universe he started with Alien by nearly remaking it with a mostly different focus. Where Alien was about working class people just trying to survive with some psychosexual thematic thrust thrown in for good measure Prometheus asks questions about the creation of life and what it means to be human through the prism of a journey to find our origins. It’s about how science works and what ends one could and should go to for the sake of discovery. It’s about religion and death and scaring the pants off you. It is a great film.

Noomi Rapace and her boyfriend (Logan Marshall-Green) are scientists that think they’ve found an “invitation” from the beings that created life on Earth pointing to a solar system much like ours far away in another galaxy. They go to an Earth-like planet in that solar system looking for these beings to ask them some questions about how and why they made us. It’s the question that drives much of our scientific inquiry, maybe the biggest question of all time with implications that are unknowable. Along for the ride is Charlize Theron as the liaison for the company that is paying for the trip, a company that is familiar to fans of the series. There are some other scientists on board as well, a geologist and biologist and the like. And a robot. Alien movies have to have a robot in them, and much like Aliens, Prometheus doesn’t keep it a secret that Michael Fassbender‘s David (a telling name, of course) is not a real boy. He’s there to talk to the aliens, having learned every language on Earth in hopes of using that bank of knowledge to communicate with them. Idris Elba is the pilot of the ship and represents the guy who’s just there to do his job. His costume underlines this, where everybody else looks quite futuristic, he seems like he would fit in quite well with the crew of the Nostromo in his jeans and a vest designed more for utility than looks.

When they arrive on the planet they see a structure that is certainly not natural and go investigating. Here the parallels to Alien become more apparent. Long hallways that look more organic than built, rooms of containers holding something insidious inside, waiting for an unfortunate soul to wake them. Much like the second season of Game of Thrones, Prometheus takes the text of the original film and tweaks it to its own ends. No scene is an exact replica and that is enough to make it quite different and shocking when something happens. In fact, much of the difference between the two films comes from the motivations of the characters, which is the best way to change a story. The crew isn’t on a salvage mission, they’re there to explore. Rapace is searching the ultimate answers, not just trying to get back to Earth. Fassbender isn’t there to bring an alien back to Earth he’s there to… well, that’d be telling. The mysteries of Prometheus are fun and interesting to consider and, again, they derive from the characters, not some plot necessity. The script is written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, the latter of which was one of the two primary writers for Lost, a show which thrived because each of the characters was interesting and well drawn so that they could drive the plot instead of the plot driving them. The script asks a lot of questions and answers some of them while leaving others for the audience to ponder after the film. It’s a thinker as well as a thriller and that’s wonderful to see.

Ridley Scott has had a long career of interesting if not perfect films, especially recently with good but flawed films like Kingdom of Heaven and Black Hawk Down. Here he returns to his beginnings (hey, that seems familiar!) and makes a smart, gorgeous, thrilling sci-fi film like Alien and Blade Runner, both of which appear in my top 10 of all time. It isn’t as good a film as either of those two, but I’m comfortable calling it his third best film. He began his career as a production designer and it shows in all of his films. Every world he creates is wholly realized. He reteamed with Alien designer H. R. Giger to design the new elements in Prometheus which ensures that the two films look and feel similar even though Prometheus has a much cleaner look to it, at least at the outset. The best decision Scott made in the direction of this film was to separate it from Alien in terms of scope. I already touched on this in the first paragraph of this review, but Prometheus really feels a lot larger than Alien ever did. We saw some wide shots of the Nostromo and the structure the crew investigates but Alien is mostly a film of interiors and cramped ones at that. This serves the tension of that film perfectly, but for a movie like Prometheus which is about exploration and adventure the scope needed to be grand and Scott accomplishes that perfectly. The ship Prometheus is often filmed from a great distance, showing its relative smallness and focusing more on the landscape of the new planet. The structure the team investigates is so large that some of the expedition crew gets lost within it. And the final setpeice is gigantic. Everything is big, which only fits a movie about where we came from and what it means to live and die.

The film works spectacularly as an exploration epic, but it also attempts to be a human story and that’s the only place where it doesn’t completely work. The Prometheus isn’t a working vessel like the Nostromo, there are some scenes where people talk about their feelings. These scenes aren’t bad or out of place or anything, they just aren’t perfectly integrated into the greater story. There’s a subplot about the two scientists that are leading the journey and their relationship issues which does connect to the grander themes but it just isn’t given enough time to develop as it could. Of the four Ridley Scott films mentioned in the previous paragraph, only one is best in its theatrical cut (Alien) the rest are improved in director’s cuts, so I hope that there are some scenes which can be included on the Blu-ray release which will enhance the interpersonal connections just a bit. It’s not a huge failing of the film, but it keeps it from being a masterpiece, unfortunately. This is a film that makes you think, not feel. That’s fine, but I could have used a bit more feeling, though I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any of the thinking.

In fact, the character that is the most interesting in terms of both thinking and feeling is David, the android. Here Scott draws not only upon the other Alien films for inspiration but Blade Runner as well. What makes us human and David un-human? How close can you get to humanity without being human? What happens when you know exactly how and why you were made? These are the questions posed by David’s existence and they are interesting. Michael Fassbender plays David perfectly, he fits right into that uncanny valley that the other androids in the series inhabit. He moves too smoothly, he tries to imitate human speech but it’s too perfect, almost like movie dialogue. His motives can’t be read on his face and he often questions why the humans are acting so human. It’s a remarkable performance, something we’ve come to expect from Fassbender in the past three years. He’s a fantastic talent and constantly impresses.

Finally, a quick word on how to see this movie. First, do it as soon as you can. Right after you read this, if you can manage it. Ambition needs to be rewarded, even more so when it actually reaches the heights it aspires to. Second, this movie actually works quite well in 3D. It was never distracting and it even added to the experience. I saw it at midnight in IMAX 3D and if you can manage that I’d recommend it. It’s a big, loud movie and it really benefits from the biggest screen you can see it on. An epic needs to be large. It’s worth the extra money for an experience like this one. I think I have a new movie to point to whenever I talk about experiences that only movies can provide. Something so grand and thought provoking at the same time. Showing worlds that don’t exist and exploring them thematically and through exciting action. It’s wonderful.

5 Jawesome Things for the week of March 23, 2012

The five best things I came across in the past week.

1. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

I wrote a full review here, but I forgot to mention a few things, so I’ll take this space to right my wrongs. I never really touched on how meta Eggers can get outside that opening section/preface. There are three scenes in particular where a regular conversation morphs into a back-and-forth with himself over the acceptability of writing a book about his friends and family. These asides are not only clever and interesting but vital to the success of the book. We have to know that Eggers is struggling with what he’s doing. He knows that no book can accurately capture these people’s lives and that they wouldn’t necessarily be happy if it did. It calls into question what Eggers the artist is doing to Eggers the reporter. Is the book more fiction than not? Does it matter?

2. 21 Jump Street

I’m just as surprised as you are. This movie was actually really funny, likely due to having some of the people behind the superb and underrated Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs involved in the directorial and writing positions. There are a few scenes that are just as crazy and absurd as that film is throughout, like the first drug trip the two undercover cops (the usually great Jonah Hill and the often-bad-but-surprisingly-great-here Channing Tatum) go on. It’s weird as hell and hilarious. The movie is pretty self aware, which is nice, and it actually does the buddy-cop thing pretty well. Fans of the tv show should keep an eye out for a few fun shoutouts and everybody should stay for the end credits, an explosion of color and clips and amazingness.

SWEARING!

3. Prometheus

Oh my. This movie cannot come out soon enough. It looks amazing. A prequel-thing to my 9th best movie of all time, Alien, directed by the director of that film, Ridley Scott would be enough to get me in the theater on opening day. Throw in MICHAEL FASSBENDER! and IDRIS ELBA! and NOOMI RAPACE! and I’ve already got my ticket purchased. Well, not really. Metaphorically. Jawesome! Now I just need to not see anything else until it comes out.

4. Javale McGee

Ah, basketball. The greatest of all sports. The only sport I care to watch. Javale McGee, a 7 foot center recently traded to the Denver Nuggets, was known as kind of an idiot around the league before this week. He had a lot of potential but it was all being wasted playing for the Washington Wizards. He did this there:

 That’s bad. However, in his first game as a Nugget he had an amazingly smart play to win the game. Watch it here: 
That’s some serious bball IQ right there. To get his defender off balance by stepping back and then hanging in midair to make sure he didn’t get called for goaltending takes a lot of smarts. I hope he continues to improve on his new team. Also, he has a DJ Roomba!

5. The end of Star Trek DS9‘s fifth season

I started watching DS9 because it was pointed to as a spiritual precedent for the Battlestar Galactica reboot. That show had a great mix of character, situation, and deep philosophical dilemmas. All of those things can be found on DS9, albeit in a bit softer form. But the softness isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I think that seeing these characters in situations that don’t concern the end of the human race allows them to be more fully developed. I liked a lot of the characters on BSG but I never got a feel for them as people, only as hardened warriors or meek bystanders. On DS9 there are life threatening situations, but there are also fun-time episodes. Those fun-time episodes make the events of the fifth season finale, the invasion by the Dominion and Cardassians, all the more exciting and intense. We know who all of these people are and we care deeply about them and their predicament. The final episode is executed perfectly, each character gets something to do and has something to lose. It’s wonderful.