Sunday, June 9, 2013

Staff Picks (Part One)

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 the 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 One--Numbers 1 thru 10)

All right, to start, I'm sure some of you out there will eventually start to notice that there are many films somewhat surprisingly not appearing on this list. Rest assured, this was on purpose, mostly just to screw with you. However, some of them were left off because I felt that they were too obvious, that everyone knows them, and my original intent was to pick films that could be considered "good", accessible, enjoyable, and yet also be films that people may or may not have heard of or maybe had not thought about in awhile. Now, admittedly, this is not always true. There are some very obvious choices on this list, but they're so damn good, right? Some of the other films you might consider to be missing are maybe some of the movies that I like, but consider them to be more "classics" than "favorites", know what I mean? These are the films I'm glad I saw, films that are very well done, but in the end, they are films I'm probably never going to watch again. Remember: "good", accessible AND enjoyable. Finally, all of the other films you think are missing are probably just some of the many films that you might think are good, but in actuality are really, really terrible, so yeah... they're not going to be appearing on my list.

Let's begin, shall we?

Also, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical...

1. 12 Monkeys

This is probably Director Terry Gilliam's most mainstream movie, meaning that most likely 90% of the world has absolutely no idea this film exists at all. Well, here's the big sell, folks. Bruce Willis. Brad Pitt. Eh? Eh? A twisting and turning, what's real/what isn't, sci-fi thriller about time-traveling convicts, loony bins, viruses, and environmentalists with the fate of the world maybe hanging in the balance will keep you glued to the screen. This is actually the first role I noticed Brad Pitt in as an actor... just fyi. Before that he had always kind of been somewhat obviously Brad Pitt in every role, y'know? Brad Pitt as a cowboy. Brad Pitt as a Vampire. Well here, he's great, with an introductory monologue for the Ages.

2. 13 Assassins

The name Takashi Miike is one that should make you sit up and take notice. He is a Director of singular and graphic vision, he makes films that will stick with you. I didn't put Audition on the list, but hey, go ahead and check that one out... if ya' got the guts. Anyway, 13 Assassins is not a horror film, so relax. What it is, is an amazing and modern and yet perfectly classic Samurai flick. Shades of the greats that came before certainly color the film as influences, but Miike's tale of 13 warriors on a suicide mission to stop a sadistic and evil Lordling is its own beast and believe me, it stands tall. The last 45 minutes, a prolonged battle in a small town/trap between the 13 samurai and a couple hundred of the Lord's retainers is simply amazing.

3. 5 Broken Cameras

Emad Burnat's moving documentary about the brutal Israeli oppression of Palestinian settles and the anger seething through both sides, as shown through a series of five cameras Emad finds, fixes, and eventually has smashed by Israeli Forces was nominated for an Oscar in 2012. And of course, when Emad showed up for the big night at LAX, despite having a passport, a movie playing in theatres, and actual tickets to the Oscars themselves, he and his wife and small children were detained for a gee-I-wonder-why reasons by Homeland Security and were only released because Social Media pressure caught on and began to grow. Lovely. Anyway, it's a tough and sad film, but it's worth a watch to see the human side of a long-simmering conflict that you maybe don't get a chance to see very often.

4. A Boy and his Dog

Based off Science Fiction Luminary and well-known super-awesome cranky old bastard Harlan Ellison's novel, A Boy and his Dog is the story of a young man and his canine companion. The duo scavenge a nuclear post-apocalyptic wasteland for food and sex, communicating telepathically all the while, the dog instructing the boy in the ways of the old, long gone world. They eventually stumble onto an underground society where all the young man's desires are answered... or so he thinks. This film is a classic. It is also one of Don Johnson's very first film roles. And it has maybe one of the best endings ever.

5. Adventureland

Ew! Gross! Kristen Stewart! Dude, believe me, I know, but just trust me on this. Adventureland is a film about the crappy summer job after the first year of college, when you're back home and aimless, ready to go but still stuck, almost free. It's about summer flings and summer drama. It's a nice little entertaining, nostalgia-fueled dramedy (That's Drama/Comedy, kids--your pal, Jon). Sure, sure, Kstew is Kstew, and while it is true, she is exactly who she always is in this film--dead-eyed and sneering and obsessed with tucking her hair behind her ear--she's right for the role. She fits. But the real key to this film, the reason it's great fun, is the supporting actors. Bill Hader, Martin Star, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds... Great performances. It's not gonna blow your mind, but you'll have a good time.

6. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

More Terry Gilliam! Always a good thing. And it is certainly not the last one that will be appearing on this list. Munchausen is probably my second favorite all-time Gilliam film and one of the main ones to showcase the man's unbridled imagination. Featuring a young Sarah Polley as the young girl joining the famous Baron--as he runs just ahead of Death--and his companions on one last great adventure, getting swallowed by a sea serpent, saving a city from invading Turks, journeying to the moon, and even dancing with the goddess Venus (Uma Thurman), this was the first superhero movie of my childhood. It's Pure Fantasy and Magic. I could have watched it a million times in a row.

7. The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension

Buckaroo Bonzai (Robocop's Peter Weller) is a little bit of a Renaissance Man. He's an Inventor, a Super-scientist, an Adventurer, a Neurosurgeon, a Superhero, and the Rock Star lead singer of the world famous band of rockin' crime fighters The Hong Kong Cavaliers (Which includes Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, and Ellen Barkin among others). He's here to save the world from Evil Invading Aliens, one of which is John Lithgow, another is Christopher Lloyd, and a third is Vincent Schiavelli. I don't know if there is anything else I really need to say about this movie, is there? Moving on.

8. The Amazing Screw-on Head

The Amazing Screw-on Head is about a Civil War era secret agent with some special abilities who only answers to Abraham Lincoln. What are his special abilities, you ask? Well... his name IS The Amazing Screw-on Head. I mean, really, people. Based on a one-shot comic by indie darling Mike Mignola, there isn't too much out there like this. Paul Giamatti is the voice of the Screw-on Head. David Hyde-Pierce appears as the villainous Emperor Zombie. And Patton Oswalt is Mr. Groin. Yet another film to appear on this list that if I have to tell you much more than that, it's probably not really up-your-alley, right? For the rest of you.. Go now. Find it. Watch it. Love it. Live it.

9. American Splendor

Harvey Pekar is a one-of-a-kind type of guy. He's an Everyman hero. A guy you want to know and a guy you'd be afraid to sit next to on the bus. He's a schlub and kind of schlumpy. He can be a bit aggressive at times. He's been on Letterman and on MTV. He made a comic about his life and it's awesome and it was drawn by Robert Crumb. He's made it, America... he's made it. Also, his life kind of sucks. That's in his comic too. He likes to shout at people. Or just in general. Mixing fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, this is both documentary and comedy. Paul Giamatti is perfect as Harvey Pekar, but the real treasure is Hope Davis as Joyce Brabner, Harvey's long-suffering wife and stalwart companion. And of course, then there's Toby. Sounds weird, doesn't it? Give it a try. It is funny and touching and fantastic.

10. An American Werewolf in London

In a time when CGI effects pretty much ruin 80% of the movies it's featured in, this movie belongs on my list, it demands to be seen even, if for no other reason than for the definitely Oscar-worthy Rick Baker's amazing special effects. The big werewolf transformation, nothing but make-up and models and pure cinematic ingenuity, is still amazing. A-MAZ-ING. Seriously. And even that aside, this film, a dark comedy about two college students who backpack into the British Moors one full moon night, one of them leaving a corpse and the other leaving a werewolf is a classic. Scary, funny, dark, and cool. It is everything you want. The whole soundtrack is moon-related, of course, which sometimes seems a bit on the nose... but the werewolf's rampage in downtown London more than makes up for it. Check it out.

All right!

So that's the first ten films on my list, the first ten... of a HUNDRED! Hence the title. Stay tuned as this list will be continuing here every couple of days. And feel free to let me know what you think in the comments, if you are so inclined.

Your favorite,


the library bird said...

wanted a good Sunday afternoon movie so I hit your recommendations and picked Adventureland - which I found on Netflix. Really good choice! thank you cuz! xoxo

Jon said...

Awesome. Glad you liked it! Martin Starr was great in it.