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Saturday, September 20, 2014

30 Day Film Challenge (Days 11 Through 20)


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 days 11 through 20 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. (Find Days 1-10 HERE)



30 Day Film Challenge - Day 11 - A Film By Your Favorite Director – Inglourious Basterds directed by Quentin Tarantino

Once again, this amounts to boiling down a lot of years of film for the sake of choosing a single director as a favorite and once again I am going with just one of many answers, but really Quentin Tarantino is pretty much my favorite working director.  I would certainly race out to see new films from many directors currently working, let alone continue to watch or catch up on the works of directors from the past, but regardless, for the purpose of today’s challenge, I’m sticking with Quentin Tarantino.

As far as the film goes, I am going with Inglourious Basterds for a very specific reason.  While it may not necessarily be my Favorite Tarantino film (and it is really splitting hairs in terms of how off it may be from the top of my list), I do consider it to be his Best film as a filmmaker.  To keep this tied to the challenge, from a directorial standpoint, Inglourious Basterds is a terrific display of incredibly well-handled tension, balanced by dark humor, depiction of process, a stylized sense of the times, and many other aspects that found Tarantino working to the best of his abilities.  I love this movie for plenty of reasons and if Tarantino can top this film as a director, then it would be quite the accomplishment.

Runner-ups: This is basically just me listing various films (not necessarily their ‘best’) from some of my favorite directors, but so be it – Zodiac (David Fincher), Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock), Munich (Steven Spielberg), The World's End (Edgar Wright), Trainspotting (Danny Boyle), Fargo (The Coen Brothers), The Devil's Backbone (Guillermo Del Toro), Traffic (Steven Soderbergh), Collateral (Michael Mann), The Apartment (Billy Wilder), The Maltese Falcon (John Huston), The Life Aquatic (Wes Anderson), Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson), Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese), Memento (Christopher Nolan)

30 Day Challenge - Day 12 - A Film By Your Least Favorite Director - Date Movie, directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer

Honestly, this day's challenge has already worn me out. I can understand that it is called "least favorite" and not "worst" so I can understand the easy pot shots taken at director's that are easy to hate on, but I am just not at that level (though I am surprised Tyler Perry hasn't come up yet). There are certain films that I may not like to see, but it is also fairly easy for me to see the talent or craftsmanship that is behind the camera, despite problems with the films of certain filmmakers. Meanwhile, there are a host of issues with truly bad filmmakers that have nothing to offer in terms of talent, yet are paid large amounts of money to churn out dreadful features.

This brings me to Date Movie directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, I could list all of their films (including Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, and Meet the Spartans), but Date Movie is the only one where I forced myself to watch the whole thing. These are the worst kind of films, relying on low-common denominator humor that straddles the line between offensive and moronic, with the claim of "all in good fun" working well enough to keep these guys employed. Beyond the lack of humor, these are just ugly movies. They are theatrical productions of bad ideas that would not make it past the pitch meetings for SNL or even MADtv, with even less sense of what makes for good comedic direction. It's just sad and pathetic.

Runner-ups: Here's just a few other directors that are worse than just being "the worst" they are just guys that sit right below the middle-of-the-road, but keep coming back to make more movies (and no money), with no real creativity on display - Dennis Dugan - Grown Ups, Frank Coraci - Click, Shawn Levy - The Internship.

30 Day Film Challenge - Day 13 - A Guilty Pleasure - The Big Hit

I don't really use the term 'guilty pleasure' all that often, as I think that would imply having some sort of shame about enjoying a film. I'm pretty forthcoming about what movies I like and what one I don't, regardless of the reasons for why. With that said, there are a few movies where I find the moniker to make appropriate sense, as some movies you just cannot explain why you enjoy them so much (generally comedies or dumb action movies), but for some reason they put a smile on your face anyway, despite understanding that other movies can do something similar and better.

With all that said, I have a huge amount of love for The Big Hit. The 1998 action-comedy about a hitman, played by Mark Wahlberg, who is not a fan of not being liked by people and is regrettably pulled into a kidnapping plot thought up by La Bamba himself, Lou Diamond Phillips. It’s a silly movie with some fun action direction, but really has no reason to get much praise, beyond the fact that I think it is very entertaining and funny for reasons that only extend to me and few others. I have plenty of fun with this film, regardless of why it’s not technically 'good' and that's what matters.


30 Day Film Challenge - Day 14 - The Film That No One Expected You To Like - Step Up 3D

I guess I can see how this is different from 'guilty pleasures'. It took me a while to basically understand how to play this question, but it adds up. You look at the movies you like and determine a film that you went into and would assume no one would think That is the film you would end up being a big fan of. I am not exactly close-minded when it comes to films of various genres and while I may give a pass to some films that are fairly harmless, there are a few where I am much higher on and happy to champion.

This brings me to Step Up 3D (and by extension, Step Up: All In). For whatever reason, I find this franchise to be quite addictive and while they have their ups and downs (the fourth entry: Step Up Revolution is the worst), it was a surprise to me, when it came to Step Up 3D and how much I ended up enjoying it. There are ridiculous and hilarious things about the actual story/characters and some of the scenarios, but it is also incredibly well-directed when it comes to showing off great dance choreography. Much like a proper scene in an action movie, having an understanding of geography and camera placement makes all the difference, and when this film was not entertaining me from its basic silliness, it is impressed me with the delivery of dance action on screen, with a strong utilization of 3D no less. I don't think anyone would assume I am one to say 'yes' to Step Up movies, if they don't already know me well enough, let alone the third or fifth entries in the series, but here we are and that is why it is my pick.

Runner-ups: Wild Things, The Pest, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, A Life Less Ordinary, Spider-Man 3, The Big Bounce, Cars 2

30 Day Film Challenge - Day 15 - The Film That Depicts Your Life - Sullivan's Travels

I thought this would be a bit more challenging, but I ended up having lots of options for what is one of the more fun items for this challenge. It is not as if I have a movie that follows my life beat-for-beat, but there are certainly a lot of themes and ideas that I know how to relate to myself (let alone the occasional lead or supporting character). The thing I was trying to look for in this challenge was a sense of optimism and an attitude in the script or characters that would suggest the idea of going out and doing something, rather than waiting for something to happen to you, which is how I like to think I live my own life.

This brings me to Sullivan's Travels from director Preston Sturges. It is a mix of screwball comedy (Sturges style) and satire that follows a director seeking to change up the kind of work he puts out for audiences, only to discover what really matters in life. There are plenty of fun elements in this film as a whole and having Veronica Lake at your side is in no way a bad thing either, but it is that sense of optimism and exploration that runs throughout this film that made it work quite well as my main pick for today's challenge (I also really hope Criterion has a Blu-ray announcement for this one soon!).


30 Day Film Challenge - Day 16 - A Film You Used to Love, But Now Hate – Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged me

I came up with two ways to approach this question. One is through nostalgia, as in having a certain fondness for a movie due to a love you had for it when you were younger, only to now understand that either you have changed or the film was never really good to begin with. The other way comes down to your perception being warped by the opinions of others.  Too much praise could make a film you thought was just okay seem much worse in some cases, which is a bit unfair, but it happens.

Option 1 is what I went with, as I recall being big into the second Austin Powers film (and I admittedly still find parts of it funny), but now have little desire to sit through the whole thing again.  While the first film is a fantastic satire that is both hilarious and poignant in its own silly ways, the sequel is simply a rehash of ideas that has no real purpose, other than to parody some pop culture elements and hit the raunchiness factor a whole lot harder. The first film had something to say, the sequels just went crazier with the characters Mike Myers created and would go on to create with mixed results.

Runner-ups: I should say that I don’t “hate” any of these movies, but they do fit in a place where I used to like them more, but they don’t have the same impact or enjoyment factor that they used to have: Meet the Parents, 3 Ninjas, The Boondock Saints, Mrs. Doubtfire, Gladiator, Into the Wild, Gran Torino

30 Day Film Challenge - Day 17 - Your Favorite Drama Film – A Simple Plan

I was going all over the place with what this pick was going to be, so I decided to set some parameter to narrow it down. For a favorite drama, I wanted to go with a film that really is a drama. As opposed to a dark comedy, a war film, a noir, or a cop/gangster movie, I wanted to try and pick something that fit as a pure drama.  It was still difficult, but I finally made a decision of a film I not only love, but one that I do not talk about nearly enough.

A Simple Plan is a fantastic film in every way.  This is the story of some regular guys stumbling across a large sum of money and all the bad things that end up happening because of it.  From the great performances all around (particularly Billy Bob Thorton) to the way this plot twists and turns in such effectively well-handled ways, A Simple Plan is not only a giant turn from director Sam Raimi’s other work (the Evil Dead films, Darkman, etc), it is a masterfully executed drama that serves as one of the best of the 90s.  There are many dramas I could list (good thing I have runner-ups), but I am very happy to put the spotlight on this gem of a film.

Runner-ups: I considered a lot of films for this, but these are the ones that came closest - The Conversation, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Boogie Nights, Do The Right Thing, Citizen Kane, On The Waterfront, Casablanca, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 12 Angry Men, The Social Network, Badlands, The Right Stuff, Cool Hand Luke, Traffic

30 Day Film Challenge - Day 18 - Your Favorite Comedy Film - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Much like the drama category (and a lot of these questions), there were a ton of options, but I only had one real parameter with this one. Aside from not wanting to repeat the same movie for any of these challenges, the goal in picking a favorite comedy was simple: what film do I put on most frequently, if I just want to laugh. Between The Big Lebowski and this film, I have my current answer.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is quite similar to a film like Shaun of the Dead, as it is essentially an homage to a certain genre (neo-noir/pulp detective stories in this case) that succeeds at being a very good send up, while also becoming an entry into the genre (it fits with The Long Goodbye very closely as well). Shane Black's very funny screenplay, whether the comedy is broad, dialogue/one-liner focused, or skewed towards darker territory (body disposal, loss of fingers) and he has a great comedy duo in the form of Robert Downey Jr., who was on an amazing roll before Iron Man from 2005 to 2007 and Val Kilmer, who is pitch perfect as the sarcastic, dry, and very witty gay P.I. This is one of the films I have seen too many times to count and it never gets old, but certainly deserves plenty of praise.

Runner-ups: The Big Lebowski, Ghostbusters, Young Frankenstein, Sleeper, Clerks, Dogma, Snatch., Shaun of the Dead, Swingers, Hot Fuzz, Old School, There's Something About Mary, Kingpin, Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles, Duck Soup, Airplane, Sleeper, Stripes, Anchorman, Election, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

30 Day Film Challenge - Day 19 - Your Favorite Action Film - Terminator 2: Judgment Day

As with all these broad category challenges, one can go crazy trying to single out just one film, but here we are. With action there are so many to pick from, and while I initially wanted to avoid films that could apply to sub-categories (Kung-fu flicks, Buddy Cop movies, Sci-Fi Action movie) and go with just a pure-action movie. Then I realized it would be easier just to combine my gut instinct with an action movie I have watched most, regardless of what other categories it could also fall in.

Terminator 2 is a spectacular action movie, with writer/director James Cameron working to the best of his abilities at the time. Trading in the first film's horror-sci-fi premise for a large-scale sci-fi action epic, this movie has a great understanding of how to make a bigger and better sequel, utilizing great special effects and make up that hold up very well, along with maintaining a strong sense of pacing, thanks to the film essentially working as a long chase movie full of action and spectacle. Schwarzenegger is maybe at his charismatic best here, adding playfulness to his literal killing machine character, while a much smaller Robert Patrick is added as an incredibly menacing villain in the form of the T-1000. And then you have badass Linda Hamilton, which I don't really need to expand upon. Honestly, this is one of the movies I have seen the most in my life. I love watching it, as it is exciting, action-packed, full of memorable scenes and dialogue, and very well thought out as far as big summer blockbusters go.

Runner-ups: Predator, Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Road Warrior, The Raid, District B13, The 36 Chambers of Shaolin, Seven Samurai, The Killer, Hard Boiled, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Rock, Face/Off, Speed, Desperado, 13 Assassins, The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Good The Bad & The Weird, The Dark Knight, The Legend of Drunken Master, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, GoldenEye, Leon, The Fifth Element, Point Break

30 Day Film Challenge - Day 20 - Your Favorite Romantic Film – Punch Drunk Love

This was a fun challenge.  It would be easy to write this off as the ‘rom-com’ category or a sappy movie category, but there is such a wealth of films to explore here that I managed to come away with plenty of options, given the decades of options and varying types of films involving romance in some sense.  Really though, I lean towards the older, obscure, and more non-traditional films, when it comes to showing me a story about onscreen romance, which I am happy to get emotionally invested in.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s version of a romantic comedy is exactly the kind of film I respond to. Stepping away from impossibly good-looking people that cannot seem to find love with the other impossibly good-looking people they interact with, this is a weird movie about weird people with issues.  Really, it is not much different than Sandler’s 90s ‘Adam Sandler-type’ films.  He plays a man with anger issues and a wacky job, but through the lens of PTA, we see true pathos in him.  Plagued by abusive sisters, this is a man with troubles interacting in life, but thanks to the persistence of Emily Watson’s character, he finds motivation to do something and be with someone.  The film is utterly sweet and honest, once you look past its oddities; features fantastic performances from not just Sandler and Watson, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a glorified cameo and Luis Guzman as a guy who just gets the kind of tone that PTA wants in his films.  Jon Brion’s score is also brilliant, adding to the fantastical sense of place this film tries to establish, despite being mostly set in LA. To top it all off, PTA also may have my favorite film that features heavy use of lens flare.


Runner-ups: Amelie, Me, You & Everyone We Know, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Love Actually, The Apartment, Defending Your Life, It Happened One Night, Out of Sight, Wall-E, Chasing Amy, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Leon, True Romance, Say Anthing..., Before Sunset, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, West Side Story

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