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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

30 Day Film Challenge (Days 1 Through 10)


Currently over on Facebook, I am participating in the 30 Day Film Challenge for a group page known as Movie Magic Mesmerize Me.  It is fairly straightforward, as each day presents a new question, to which a film-related response is required.  As I am having a lot of fun adding my thoughts on this each day, I have decided to collect these posts and make a few articles out of them here as well.  So this post consists of my responses for the first ten days of this challenge.  Note that I have not done much to really make the writing any better; not that it is bad, but I have done little to really proofread what were originally quick (but thought out) posts on Facebook. Enjoy.




Day 1 - Your favorite film: Grosse Pointe Blank

So a couple things: Among the 30 questions in this challenge, "favorite movie" is probably my least favorite, as it is more of me giving a stock answer, as I circle around plenty of films that I consider to be my absolute favorite. That in mind, I talk enough about Grosse Point Blank as a favorite of mine (next to a couple others) and I likely won’t see it from anyone else, so I'm throwing it up here for Day 1, with the other more fun challenge questions/answers coming soon.

That out of the way, yeah, I love this movie. The cast is great, Cusack is in top form, the script is fun and witty, the comedy moves between lighter and darker quite effectively, the action is solid, great soundtrack, and plenty other things that I can list. There is more to consider on a deeper level, considering the state of mind one has to go through to consider being a hitman for a living, let alone a commentary on how one man moved out of his hometown and traveled the world, only to come back and share his growth to what seems to be a majority of fellow former students who stayed local and did less with their lives, but that's a longer essay. So yeah, 'favorite movie' for this post - Grosse Pointe Blank.

Day 2: Least Favorite Film - Teen Wolf Too

This is tricky, as I have to really look at films I do not like and make the effort to look at a film that I truly have nothing to praise in any manner. There are plenty of films that I dislike, but have elements that are neat or some performances that work, in spite of everything else. Then you have movies that are so bad they become funny, which sits far from making it a 'least favorite'. I see a lot of posts that are focused on films that are well liked by a large majority, but upset various folks for whatever reason as well, which makes me believe it's more of a vindictive response and a chance to lash out.

So after careful determination, Teen Wolf Too is the pick I have gone with for various reasons. It has beat out a number of other terrible picks (including Over the Top, Weekend at Bernie's II, Soul Man, and most recently - Sex Tape), but the key thing to not is that the worst kind of movie I can see is a comedy that is not funny and for whatever reason, I sat through Teen Wolf Too and it was one of the more miserable experiences of my life. Putting more energy into why this movie is just the worst is not even worth it.

Day 3 - A Film You Watch To Feel Good -Shaun of the Dead

So now we're getting into the more interesting questions and this was a tough one. I watch movies in general to make me feel good, so singling out one in particular is a challenge (good thing this is the 30 Day Film Challenge). While there are plenty of options, I'm singling it down to the film I most recently find myself putting on, whenever I just want to watch something and that is Shaun of the Dead, the brilliant Rom-Zom-Com that pays homage to the zombie film genre, while becoming its own entry into it. Love this movie, so much fun, so clever, and a good story about friendship, growing up, and relationships...and zombies.

Runner-ups: Swingers, Dave Chapelle's Block Party, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the film I considered posting - The Spongebob SquarePants Movie, which I really enjoy for what it is (which is both slapstick child humor and an interesting look at what it is to be a pre-teen), but once used to get over a sad event in my life (and I was in my early 20s at this point) and found it to be quite effective as relief.

Day 4 - A Film You Watch To Feel Down - Night of the Living Dead

There were a number of ways to take this question, as 'watching something to feel down' seems to suggest you either want to put yourself in a saddened state on purpose or it sits as a movie you deem to be the saddest ever and would therefore probably not want to revisit it all that often. I went with the former, as the inevitability of a downer ending doesn't take away from a certain level of entertainment value to find in a film, even one where the situation is so dire.

George A. Romero's 1968 horror classic serves as an influential film, as far as low budget horror and zombie films go, let alone works as a sly social commentary, but for today's challenge, the film fits for a simple reason: you can't stop the end that is coming (both for the Ben character in the film and the world of the film itself) and that is depressing and terrifying. This film features humans that die or are killed, then get back up to kill or eat others. No solution is offered, just arguments between the people that have a hard time getting a grip on their new reality. The film has frustrating characters, people eating people, and a little girl that can't control the harsh actions she takes against her own parents. Top this all off with an ending that can only upset you, given what the character went through and you have a film that still plays effectively, but does not exactly leave you feeling all that good.

Runner-ups: The film I almost put down was Melancholia. Lars Von Trier seems like an easy answer to this challenge as a whole, but I love Melancholia, despite how strongly uneasy I feel, given where everything ends up. Others: Seven, Natural Born Killers, The Elephant Man (which I can't talk about without getting sad), The Mist, 12 Monkeys, and Brazil (Terry Gilliam tends to make downers too).

Day 5 - A Film That Reminds You of Someone - True Grit

I can associate a lot of stories with a lot of different movies, but for this question, I wanted to focus on films that I specifically tie to one person. As my answer, I am going with 2010's True Grit. The Coen Brother's take on Charles Portis' novel is plenty entertaining in itself, with the Coen's wonderful ability to write/adapt dialogue in their style, mixed with the great cast and visual splendor of seeing them shoot a western.

As far as whom this film reminds me of; that would be my grandfather. While he is no longer with us, he was a huge fan of westerns (Tombstone is another film I was close to picking for similar reasons). One of the last things I was able to do with my grandfather was take him to the movie theaters for the first time in I don't know how many years, so he could see the new True Grit on the big screen. We had a great time and it is a film that I not only really enjoy watching, but one that will always have this nice memory associated with it.

Adding runner-ups is a bit strange, as I am not going to type full stories for each one, but let's just say these films have specific stories tied to them - Van Helsing, There's Something About Mary, Cool Hand Luke, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Bad Seed, To Kill a Mockingbird

Day 6: A Film That Reminds You of Somewhere - Brick

This was a fun challenge question to consider, as it relies on how literal to take it. Do I go with a place I've visited or one that brings up a sense of nostalgia? Fortunately, I had a film in mind that worked in numerous ways.

Rian Johnson's neo-noir set in a high school is a film I love for many reasons, but for the basis of this question, Brick, while stylized in its approach to dialogue, still manages to capture a sense of what high school is (with a little murder mystery thrown is as well). That said, it was also filmed down in San Clemente, CA, close to where I live. Being both a neat indie film that twists the high school setting into a moody detective story and being located in a beach city in Orange County, this is a film that reminds me of home and of the time of classic noir.

Day 7 - A Film That Reminds You of Your Past - Batman

Picking a film that reminds me of the past is fairly simple, as I have brought this story up before, which I'll get. That said, I grew up with movies, particularly as my mom had me watching lots of much older movies when I was young (things like The Bad Seed and a lot of Hitchcock no less).

Tim Burton's Batman is the earliest memory I have in life, so seeing as a film that reminds of my past makes a whole lot of sense. Even if there are other Batman films I like more, I will never get over the joy I take from seeing Batman every time, as it was literally a movie I would watch when going to be when I was a child, a sort of visual bedtime story, when others wouldn't do. With all that in mind, not sure how I am not a bigger fan of Prince, given that he wrote original songs for a film I've seen so many times.

Runner-ups: I have a couple for similar reasons - Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and Terminator 2 (T2): Judgement Day. With that in mind, most recently, Boyhood gave me a huge reminder of my own childhood for various reasons, which helped me respond to that film in a number of different ways, extending beyond its basic quality.

Day 8 - The Film You Can Quote Best - True Romance

This one is pretty straightforward. I am no stranger to quoting movies and picking one is nearly senseless, but I'll stand up for True Romance. Directed by Tony Scott and scripted by Quentin Tarantino, this is one of my all-time favorites, and a lot of that comes from the dialogue delivered by this fantastic cast. A lot of films have quotes and phrases that I use very frequently and this film is most definitely one of them. And it is not as if this is a movie with only so much dialogue, there is a lot of fast-paced and quick-witted wordplay going on in this film (part of why I love it), making the film dense with quotable moments, but one I really enjoy recalling.

Runner-ups: Every Tarantino film, The Big Lebowski, Predator, Ghostbusters, Terminator 2 (T2), Anchorman, Fight Club, Every Star Wars, Spaceballs

Day 9 - A Film with Your Favorite Actor (Male) - Moon, starring Sam Rockwell

With nearly a century worth of cinema to consider, I'm not sure how simple it is to name one favorite actor (let alone one favorite movie, but I digress). With that said, in an effort to narrow things down for today's challenge, I have tried to go with actors whose movies I have seen a good majority of, crossed with the fact that I enjoyed and enjoy continuing to watch these movies, with the final aspect being that I look forward to seeing any new movie starring said actor. There are a number of actors I considered (good thing I'm doing runner-ups on all these), but Sam Rockwell is a favorite of mine and what better way to continue to highlight the brilliant little sci-fi film Moon.

While there are several movies I could have gone with for Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Way Way Back, Seven Psychopaths, etc.), Duncan Jone's 2009 film is a great, stripped down story that has some big ideas, but can only do so much, given the relatively low-budget and lack of a larger cast. Aside from some video transmissions, the film hangs on the shoulders of Rockwell, who must do a variety of different things as an actor and he pulls it off incredibly well. He is stationed as the lone operator of a job harvesting an alternative fuel on the moon and has basically only himself and his thoughts to keep him occupied, while up there. Even with his interactions with a computer voiced by Kevin Spacey, it is Sam Rockwell who is pretty much on his own in every scene in this film and I was absorbed by it throughout, and continually pleased to watch Rockwell on screen.

Runner-Ups: Fight Club with Edward Norton, Rescue Dawn with Christian Bale, Take Shelter with Michael Shannon, Godfather 2 with Al Pacino, Seven Psychopaths with Christopher Walken, The Conversation with Gene Hackman, On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando, Raging Bull with Robert De Niro

Day 10 - A Film With Your Favorite Actor (Female) - Take Shelter, starring Jessica Chastain

Much like yesterday, narrowing down decades of cinema in an effort to choose just one actress is not all that simple, but I have done so, with the same sort of parameters in mind. I've tried to focus on an actress whose work I have seen the majority of and is in films that I not only like her in, but are ones I find to be quite good and continually good overtime. And of course there's the matter of being an actress I look forward to seeing, when films starring her come out.

With that in mind, Jessica Chastain's breakout year of 2011 was pretty amazing, given the number of films she was featured in, but while Tree of Life was the exciting new Terrence Malick film and The Help gave her the broadest and most showy role of hers to play, it is Take Shelter that I single out as not only her best performance (Zero Dark Thirty comes very close), but one of the best performances by an actress that I have seen in recent times (Michael Shannon's performance in this film happens to give what I consider the best male performance I've have seen in some time as well, by the way). This is the story of a man having terrifying visions and doing what he can to ideally protect his family and while Shannon is given the focus, Chastain's role as his wife and the way she approaches the characters is simply fantastic.

Runner-Ups: Jessica Chastain in
Zero Dark Thirty, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Angelina Jolie in Changeling, Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive, Frances McDormand in Fargo, Angelica Huston in The Grifters, Laura Linney in You Can Count on Me, Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Catherine Hepburn in African Queen, Janet Leigh in Psycho

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