Tag: media

Back Catalog Review: Medium Cool

Medium Cool 3

The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all the movies I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films. 

Those of you who have read more than one thing I’ve written or talked to me for over an hour probably know that Fanny and Alexander is my favorite movie of all time. You may also know that last year I wrote my Master’s Thesis on it (you can read the whole thing here, if you’ve got the time and the inclination), in which I talked about how Bergman sets up storytelling as a way to counter fascist (or authoritarian) narratives. I’m pretty proud of it, and it served as my launching point for my soon-to-begin Ph.D. studies in oppositional storytelling. I began to seek out other works (books, movies, essays) that could potentially become subjects of my dissertation. Medium Cool was one such film. My instincts, in this case, were pretty good too. When I watched Haskell Wexler’s half-drama half-documentary last night, I was stunned at not only how interesting it was in terms of the oppositional storytelling I was exploring, but also how beautiful and moving the film was.


30 Day Film Challenge: Day 22 – Your Favorite Horror Film

Day 22 – Your Favorite Horror Film

Guillermo del Toro is probably my favorite living director. It’s an absolute shame that he wasn’t able to continue on The Hobbit or At the Mountains of Madness. As demonstrated in Pan’s Labyrinth, the guy can direct the crap out of movies that require imagination and emotional intelligence. And he can make some of the scariest monsters you’ll ever see. The Pale Man scene is among the most terrifying scenes of all time. His herky jerky motion (all praises go to Doug Jones) and extremely creepy design just get to me. But he is not the greatest villain of the film. No, that honor belongs to Sergi López’s Captain Vidal. He’s a very real person and yet so evil that his facial disfigurement seems like an inevitability. Like many other great horror films, Pan’s Labyrinth features a young child as our hero, or, in this case, heroine. Ivana Baquero plays Ofelia with a mix of wonder and fear of the fantasy world and the real world that really makes this movie tick. In a movie where a homicidal man is your new stepfather and your only source of escape is an equally dangerous fantasy land the horror comes from all sides. 

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 21 – Your Favorite Sci-Fi or Fantasy Film

Day 21 – Your Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film 
Sunshine (2007, Boyle

Sunshine isn’t 2001. It isn’t Alien. It’s not Solaris or even Children of Men. It owes a lot to a couple of these films and others (even Event Horizon deserves some credit) but it is a great film in its own right. I saw it in a theater and the intensity of the sun is fully realized both aurally and visually. It’s as visceral a film as I have seen, an aspect of filmmaking that Danny Boyle is particularly good at. In addition to the directorial prowess, Sunshine boasts superb acting by a few of my favorite young-ish actors: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, and Chris Evans all give great, human performances. There’s often a tendency to disregard creating actual characters for sci-fi films because most of them end up dead but there’s a lot in the script to build theses into real people in little lines. Early on there’s a big almost-dinner table scene which serves to build the characters and get all the information we need for the rest of the movie to happen. It’s really well done. And then there’s the last third. Some people hate the final third of this movie. I think it works not only technically but thematically. The entire movie is about the power and near religious nature of something as big as the sun and the third act twist just plays that up to its logical end. And the final five minutes or so are nearly transcendent (much like his latest film, 127 Hours). So, watch it but don’t hate me if you don’t like the ending. You’re the broken one, not the film. 


  • I don’t like that sci-fi and fantasy are joined in this topic. Maybe I’ll put a bonus pick at the end of this series so you can see why REDACTED is my favorite fantasy film. 
  • The sound is key to this film and the score is at once beautiful and dangerous. Like the sun! 
  • Trailer!

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 20 – Your Favorite Romantic Film

Day 20 – Your Favorite Romantic Film

Here’s a nice romance for you and your loved one to watch on a Friday night. Or not. It basically amounts to an Adam Sandler movie if his childish characters lived in the real world instead of his normal, highly stylized habitat. That’s not to say the movie isn’t stylish, of course. This is a PTA film (yes, the third on this list) and his eye for cinematic flair is not lost on this smaller film. Along with Jon Brion’s nearly overbearing score, every frame is composed to make you feel along with Sandler. He does his long takes again (this time we see Sandler talking on a phone-sex line for several uninterrupted minutes) and his camera is never quite settled. But this is a romance! Emily Watson plays the girl that gives Sandler a reason to live when all else seems to have failed him. “I have a love in my life,” he says to his nemesis (played expertly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in that slimy way he does), “it makes me strong than anything you can imagine.” Here’s a movie where going to Hawaii in pursuit of a girl works out. How is that not romantic?

  • This is basically a four person movie. Joining Sandler, Watson, and Hoffman is PTA favorite Louis Guzmán. This guy is always a bunch of fun. He brings the lightness that is sometimes lacking in the rest of the characters.
  • This film is proof that Sandler can really act. PTA likes doing that with his actors (Tom Cruise in Magnolia, Mark Whalberg in Boogie Nights).
  • Trailer! 

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 19 – Your Favorite Action Film

Day 19 – Your Favorite Action Film
Is there a character more iconic than Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones? You’d be hard pressed to find one, I think. There’s something about his cavalier method of handling the tight spots he gets himself in that just makes you want to be him. The guy that just shoots the master swordsman and throws a Nazi off a blimp, explaining he had “No ticket,” is probably the coolest guy ever. On top of the superb character work, the direction of this movie is impeccable. Spielberg gets the grandeur of the archaeological dig and the near slapstick fight scenes and the sly dialogue all pitch perfect. There’s not a sour note in the film. It also holds up remarkably well. There’s something about its adherence to classical storytelling styles and ideas that just works. Unlike, say, Star Wars, it’s not trying to be anything other than a roaring good time. There’s nothing about good and evil to clog it up. It’s just a guy going after an artifact and a girl.
  • Han Solo may have been Ford’s breakout role but I think Indiana Jones is what he should be remembered for. It plays to his strength’s perfectly.
  • The fourth film in the series is not the abomination that some would have you believe. If you think that surviving an atom bomb in a fridge is any sillier than the Holy Ghost melting your face off or grabbing your heart out of your chest or a cup that keeps you alive for centuries you have another thing coming. Crystal Skull is made in the exact same spirit as the other three films.
  • “We named the dog Indiana.” Later movie but I still love it.
  • Trailer! How can you not love it? The music, the dead guys on sticks. 30 years ago or today, this movie is great.