Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Staff Picks (Part Five)

Filmzilla has closed and with it, all the good times...

Somehow we'll soldier on... In lieu of the daily in-person experience you could have had in what is now a much lamented and by-gone era, I've decided to chronicle my Staff Picks wall for you as a sort of guide to some real good movies, or maybe just as a list of movies I happen to like a lot, or maybe you could say that this is really an ultimate (but not quite 100% complete) My Favorite Movies list, or... as the length of the list would coincidentally have it, you could simply call it:

Jon's Hot 100
(Part Five--Numbers 41 thru 50)

You can find the first Four Parts of this list here, read them at your leisure. A gentle reminder going forth, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical... Read on!

41. Drive

Drive is Noir as Fuck. In fact that should be the tag-line on the poster. "Drive is Noir as Fuck." I don't think there's a better way to describe the film. Ultra-slick. Ultra-cool. Ultra-violent. Ryan Gosling is the Driver, a part-time stuntman and part-time wheelman. He meets a mysterious and alluring woman and despite his knowing better, he gets involved with her problems, which eventually leads to shady deals, then somewhat naturally on to betrayal and death and ending, as these things often tend to do, with bloody revenge. Nicolas Winding Refn is a Cinema God. The opening sequence--a night on the job for the Driver--is an extended getaway filmed as vehicular ballet. Too cool. Noir as Fuck.

42. Easy A

Two of the things I love: Emma Stone and Emma Stone, and Easy A has both of these things in spades. A high school-set version of The Scarlet Letter, Stone plays the modern-day Hester Prynne, whose favor for a closeted buddy leads her to the heights of infamy and popularity and then eventually destruction... and redemption, I guess, but maybe that's inferred. Anyway, the whole film is funny and charming and the cast has a great chemistry. It's one of the many Teen Comedies that appear on this list--many of them in this post in particular--that I would urge you not to dismiss out-of-hand as just kid crap. This is a fun movie well worth your time. Plus, you should love Emma Stone, she's great.

43. Election

Speak of the Devil! I just get done mentioning fantastic films that will be appearing on this list, films that people might dismiss as just another run-of-the-mill Teen Comedy and the very next one happens to be an example of one of those super-awesome movies. Election is so good, a shockingly squirm-inducing dark comedy. Most of you have probably seen it already. As for the rest of you? Get with the program. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Election is about a high school election and all of the terrible things that comes with it. It's about jealousy. It's about ethics and morals, some very bad decisions and the fallout of those decisions. It's hilarious. It's also possibly the only film ever made that Chris Klein is good in. You probably thought that was impossible, but... proof's in the pudding, kids.

44. Escape from New York

There are many, many reasons to love this film--yet another fantastic result of Kurt Russel and John Carpenter working together--but my two favorite reasons are: 1. The opening titles read: "1997. The future." All in green Apple IIE graphics, too. Love it. And 2. There's a throw-away line in the beginning of the film where Lee Van Cleef's Warden Hauk says to Russel's Snake Plissken: "You flew a Gulfire over Leningrad, didn't you?" According to legend, that line was the pebble that started the avalanche that led to William Gibson writing Neuromancer. That's pretty damn cool. Simply put, this is one of the best early 80's action flicks ever. Manhattan Island has become a Maximum Security Prison. Air Force One crash-lands within the city. Grizzled anti-hero Snake Plissken is blackmailed into going in and bringing the President out again. 100% bad ass. Plus, Harry Dean Stanton is in it, proving once again, everything is better with Harry Dean Stanton (See: Avengers). Also, the soundtrack is so 80s, after hearing it, an acid-washed jean jacket just kind of appears on you, collar flipped up.

45. Fishing with John

This might have been a TV show... Maybe? I don't know. I guess I could look it up, but... whatever, forget it, who cares. Anyway, basically this guy John Lurie is a musician. He knows nothing about fishing, so the premise is, each episode John takes a different random celebrity out to some exotic locale for a little fishing and whatever-may-happen, all with the most deadpan of narrators you've ever heard. It's really funny and super odd. Weird-ass Matt Dillon. Crazy-ass Dennis Hopper. Laconic Jim Jarmusch. Willem Dafoe at his most creepy. And Tom Waits... so good. This show is a little hard to describe, what it's about, what they do, but if you get the chance, you should definitely give it a watch. It's worth it.

46. Galaxy Quest

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned how drop-dead hilarious this film is before now. I'm sure I've told you how much I love it. But I don't mind reiterating. It belongs on a short-list with films like Back to Future (which I mentioned on this list) and Ghostbusters (one I didn't think I needed to mention, so I didn't), films that are top-to-bottom funny and so quotable, ones that walk that fine line between action and comedy so well and are just packed with a phenomenal cast... Basically, this is one of those films that is directly responsible for so, so, so many bad films out there, because it makes being perfect look so God damn easy. Very obviously written by people who love and understand Star Trek deeply, it can play for all audiences. And Alan Rickman? He's incredible. I mean, of course he's hilarious, but the climatic moment where he delivers the trademark line of his character that he hates so much, but seriously? It gives you chills. And it clearly shows just how incredibly talented the guy is. Redefines the word Gravitas, get me? This film is all around worth it. Really. Seriously.

47. Get over it!

You're looking at me a little dubiously now, aren't you? I can feel it. Well, let's just be up front with it. Yes. Yes, Kirsten Dunst is in this. So is Sisqo. Just trust me. This and Bring It On are the two good Kirsten Dunst movies. Really. Okay, you got me, I have no excuse for Sisqo. He's not bad, he's just this weird early Aughts Party Jam Icon that appears in a bunch of the scenes as if he were a normal human being and not the Thong Song guy. It's absurb. Hmmm... I wonder if he's homeless now. His episode of Mtv's Cribs was the most inevitablly sad thing I've ever seen... But I digress. Anyway, Ben Foster is in it. Young Mila Kunis is in it. Martin Short is funnier than he's been in years as the Drama Teacher who writes the Rock Musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream that is the framework the plot hinges around. I know you don't believe me, but it's really funny. I enjoyed it immensely.

48. Grandma’s Boy

I know. I know. Another somewhat dubious pick... or so you would think... You would be WRONG! Okay, maybe not, your mileage may vary. It could be considered a bit of a dude comedy. I would disagree with that assessment, but I could see how some people may not be as amused by this film as I was. Basically a mid-thirties Video Game Tester has to move in with his Grandma and her two roommates. Hilarity ensues as Worlds collide! Yes, it is a Stoner comedy. With lots of Nerd jokes. And farting. Yeah, it can get pretty dirty. I laughed my ass off. You may not, and if so, you have my pity, Senor or Senorita Aquafiestas. Here's a fun Game: Early career Jonah Hill appears as the Fat One. See if you can spot him!

49. Groundhog Day

Groudhog Day is very funny. It's Bill Murray at some of his best. The cast is all great, even Andie MacDowell! And the film is really clever, so many good jokes and call-backs. It's so clever, that you might not even notice how dark it is. How it's really about a man who becomes a tortured God, unable to die, forced to relive the same 24 hours over and over and over again. For how long exactly? Well, there's a lot of (weird) debate over that, but basically it's at least decades, most likely many decades, maybe even hundreds of years. Maybe more. Think about it. He memorizes an entire episode of Jeopardy. He masters the piano. He masters Ice Sculpturing. He learns French fluently. When Andie MacDowell's character laments her inability to throw Playing Cards, he assures her "six months, four or five hours a day, you'll be an expert." He wallowed in depression. He went on a run of attempted suicide. He met every person in town and eventually learned and memorized every beat and moment of their day, to the point where he was eventually able to smoothly move about town assisting them, saving them, and/or just generally making their lives better. It's that last part which makes me think it was hundreds. Hundreds of years. Stuck. Over and over. Driven to suicide by the tedium. And then in the end, he comes out the other side this Zen Master-at-peace-with-the-world dude and the funniest part about that? While he was trapped for who knows how long, for everyone else it was just one day. He went away a giant ass and overnight comes back as the coolest, nicest guy ever. It's an awesome film. And so funny. Bill's the best.

50. Heaven’s Burning

After a spate of comedies, we're gonna wrap up this section of the Staff Picks list with a typically crazy Australian Bank Heist Road Movie. Notable as one of Russel Crowe's first films, it's about an Aussie wheelman and a runaway Japanese Bride inexplicably thrown together and chased by both the vengeful mafia and the Bride's crazed husband--a man so enraged and shamed by her rejection, he shaves his head, buys a gun and a motorcycle and dons an all black leather outfit. There's lot of shoot-outs and car chases and a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque romance. Like seemingly all Australian movies, it justs gets weirder and weirder and crazier as it goes. It's also hilarious and awesome. Plus, something happens early on in the film that is guaranteed to make everyone gasp "Holy shit!" while watching. If you come across this film, give it a chance.

And that's it for Part Five, kids! We are halfway done. Fifty great films down; fifty great films to go. Stay tuned for future entries in the coming days.

Totally Reel,

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